An Engineless Future? Lürssen Installs First Fuel Cell on Yacht
Lürssen is leading the superyacht industry into an exciting future with the construction of its first yacht with fuel cell technology, commissioned by a pioneering and technology-driven client. The fuel cell is flanking the conventional generators and marks a big step towards an emission-free Lürssen yacht.
“My grandfather built the world’s first motorboat in 1886,” says Peter Lürssen, “my dream is to be the first to build a yacht without a combustion engine.”
The innovative technology being developed by Lürssen will make it possible to anchor emission-free for 15 days or cruise 1000 miles at slow speed. Lürssen has also set-up an Innovation Laboratory to stimulate and test the integration and operation of a Marine Hybrid Fuel Cell System on board a yacht powered by methanol.
Lürssen began its research projects aimed at using fuel cells on ships in 2005, with the objective of advancing sustainable shipbuilding.
“We don’t just want to use the latest technology on our yacht – we want to advance the status quo,” continues Peter Lürssen. “And in order to change things, you have to be active. That is why we have teamed up with several top partners.”
Since 2009, Lürssen has been a partner in the national research project Pa-X-ell, which aims to develop and test hybrid energy systems with a new generation of PEM fuel cells for yachts and seagoing passenger vessels.
Dr Justus Reinke, managing director of Lürssen, confirms: “The Innovation Laboratory will be ready in summer 2021 and under real life ambient conditions and with all required auxiliary systems we consider this demonstration plant to be the final preparations to bring fuel cells on board a yacht successfully. It will definitely bring us a step closer to a CO2 emission-free Lürssen yacht.”
Lurssen has committed to a strategic partnership with Freudenberg, one of the leading experts for maritime fuel cells and a global technology group with around 48,000 employees in 60 countries. Peter Lurssen says: “With Freudenberg we have a strong partner at our side. We both have the aim to bring fuel cells on-board ships in the near future and revolutionise the yacht’s energy and propulsion system.”
Lürssen’s and Freudenberg’s concept is a fuel cell driven by hydrogen which is continuously reformed from methanol. The choice of methanol rather than elemental hydrogen has been made due to its higher energy density, the simplicity of handling and easy worldwide availability. But most important, methanol can be stored in structural tanks in the double bottom of a yacht in contrast to pressurized or liquefied hydrogen which requires valuable space above the tank top and extensive tank structures.
Dr. Manfred Stefener, Head of the Lead Center Fuel Cell Systems of Freudenberg Sealing Technologies explains: “Based on our vast knowledge in Fuel Cell Systems and Hydrogen generation by reforming methanol in connection with Freudenberg’s proven industrialization expertise, we are committed to realize innovative power and propulsion solutions for the maritime industry. We are happy to have Lürssen as partner for bringing the combination of the mature polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEMFC) with an efficient conversion process of methanol into hydrogen on the first yacht worldwide.”
Methanol is an important base material for the chemical industry and has been an option to be used as clean fuel for decades. When produced from renewable sources like by CO2 capturing from the atmosphere, methanol, is completely climate-neutral. Peter Lürssen comments: “Due to the low dynamic capability of fuel cells the system layout and the combination with other energy converters and storages is the key for a successful fuel cell power system. The yacht, which is currently under construction, will be able to stay more than 15 days at anchor with the night-time power supply being a zero emission mode. And the yacht can reach more than 1000 miles slow cruising with zero emission.”
The modular construction ensures that the methanol fuel cell can be adjusted to a customised yacht t keep space requirements and costs as low as possible and the total efficiency of the system as high as possible. Fuel cells cause almost no noise or vibrations, need only minor maintenance and are more efficient than diesel engines. Most importantly, emissions like nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, soot and even CO2 can be avoided when green methanol is used.
Lürssen is undoubtedly one of the superyacht industry’s most prominent pioneers, and the German shipyard is leading us towards an exciting (and sustainable!) future.
"My dream is to be the first to build a yacht without a combustion engine."