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Events | On Traunsee, in Austria

Hydrogen for Frauscher Riviera 600

The setting couldn’t have been more perfect: a charming Austrian castle sitting in the middle of a lake and joined to the shore by an equally charming wooden bridge. What better location for the presentation of the Future Project Hydrogen and the first truly sustainable boat? The conference that brought journalists and experts together from all over Europe at Schloss Orth on the Traunsee was, in fact, very much a success. It had a very special purpose indeed as Austrian companies Fronius, Bitter and Frauscher unveiled the world’s first hydrogen-powered electric boat. A genuine revolution for the industry. Fronius, Bitter and Frauscher developed the design which uses hydrogen as its only power supply. The research and development work was supported by the EU Wettbewerbsfähigkeit 2007-2013 project, the European Fund for Regional Development (EFRE) and the Upper Austrian region.

The principle is simple and completely green. It involves contributions from all three companies. The Frauscher yard actually builds the elegant electrically-powered Riviera 600 day cruiser aboard which is installed the fuel cell made by Fronius, which converts hydrogen into electricity. Bitter, on the other hand, developed the pressure tank system. One of the most interesting and innovative parts of the entire project is the integrated system developed by the three Austrian companies which will not only involve the building of the boat but also the provision of the hydrogen itself. To ensure that hydrogen propulsion actually flourishes rather than withering on the vine due to a lack of supply, the Clean Power station has been designed to act both as a distributor of the hydrogen cartridges and produce the hydrogen itself. It can be equipped with 250 square metres of photovoltaic cells linked to a special plant capable of producing, through electrolysis, enough hydrogen to power a boat for over 4,500 miles per year. This could have an enormous impact on the nautical industry, particularly in regions such as Austria, Germany and Switzerland where electrically-powered craft are the only ones permitted and so the only way for yachting folk to continue enjoying their favourite sport.

The Future Project Hydrogen first took shape in Sattledt at the Fronius facility – the Austrian multinational produces energy almost exclusively from renewable sources, in fact. It was then honed by the Frauscher yard with some very essential assistance from Bitter. The big difference here is that the Riviera 600 is a genuine zero emissions production boat and not merely a prototype. The Fronius, Frauscher and Bitter sustainable project offers what is to all intents and purposes a closed cycle, a world first, in which all of the tools are provided for full energy independence: from the production of the hydrogen itself to the fact that it can be used both simply and practically to power a boat. The future looks very bright indeed for the whole fuel cell idea. The reason for this is quite straightforward. A fuel cell is an electrochemical power generator which oxidises hydrogen and converts it directly into high-quality energy. Water is the only by-product of this kind of battery. The original principle was first developed in the 19th century but no alkaline fuel cells were ever actually used in practice until the American Gemini space mission in 1963.

Hydrogen is a universal energy carrier that can be generated relatively easily using renewable power sources (e.g. photovoltaic systems or wind-powered turbines) and then efficiently converted directly into electrical energy using fuel cells. In this sense, Fronius’s location in Sattledt is perfect too for producing sustainable power on an industrial scale because it has no less than 37,000 square metres of usable space: 90% of the energy required comes from a 615 kWp photovoltaic system and a 1.5MW biomass heating system. However, Fronius has developed much more than just a simple fuel cell. It is a totally regenerative energy supply system. First of all, a photovoltaic system produces energy to power an electrolyser. This, in turn, separates water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is stored and converted into energy by the fuel cell. The system is so efficient that costs are kept low too. The hydrogen is stored in special high pressure cartridges developed by Bitter.

The cartridges are available from refuelling stations with fully automated payment systems so owners need never be stuck. The hydrogen pressure tank system developed by Bitter brings together two tanking possibilities in a single system. Re-fuelling is done using a standard filler coupling or by simply exchanging an empty cartridge for a full one. Clean Power is very much the refuelling station of tomorrow as it not only distributes the cartridges but it also makes hydrogen too using photovoltaic panels. Installation is indeed simple thanks to the “container construction” which is suitable for many different locations. The modules comprise electricity power charger, hydrogen and payment units.

Currently the main market is Central Europe where limits on emissions levels are very tough for lakes. The electrically powered boats currently in use there have many disadvantages: batteries have to be charged for many hours on end and power output tends to fall the longer the boat stays out on the water. Frauscher may just have the answer in its hydrogen system. It has been empirically proven aboard the Riviera 600 that hydrogen cells offer significant advantages. Instead of waiting eight to 10 hours for a battery to recharge owners can refuel in under five minutes. Power and range are also significantly better (80km at 4kW). The fuel cell system also lasts longer and buffer battery lifetime is increased too. Last but not least, this is a genuine zero emissions system and a very quiet one at that. In short, thanks to its collaboration with Fronius and Bitter on the Future Project Hydrogen, Frauscher is the only yard anywhere in the world right now to offer a 100% sustainable boat and an integrated system designed to produce a zero-emission fuel. Another added bonus is the fact that noise is no longer a problem thanks to the electric propulsion. Only a gentle drone gives any indication the engine is even switched on.

Michael Schubert

(Yacht Capital, n. 8/2003)



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