Lürssen is building its first yacht with fuel cell technology, in a big step towards emission-free yachting
| 30 April 2021
German shipyard Lürssen, one of the world’s leading builders of custom superyachts, is building its first yacht with hydrogen fuel-cell technology.
The project, reportedly set to be delivered in 2025, is for a client who has been described by the usually tight-lipped yard as “an amazing owner who loves technology and new developments”.
The news was first revealed in April during an episode of Lürssen Live, during a discussion about alternative propulsion technologies.
“Contrary to our normal behaviour we can tell you that we are actually building a superyacht with a fuel cell installed on the yacht,” CEO Peter Lürssen said during the episode. “It is very exciting and [the owner] gave us permission a week ago to talk about it. This will push the eco-friendliness of yachts to a new dimension in the new future.”
The fuel cell, which has been designed to flank the conventional generators, marks a big step towards the first emission-free Lürssen yacht. The innovative technology in the fuel cell is driven by hydrogen that is continuously reformed from methanol. This technology makes it possible to anchor emission-free for 15 days or cruise up to 1,000 miles at slow speed.
This will push the eco-friendliness of yachts to a new dimension in the new future
The choice of methanol rather than elemental hydrogen has been made due to its higher energy density, simplicity of handling, and worldwide availability.
Though hydrogen fuel cell technology takes more space than existing diesel engines to produce the same amount of power, the space required by hydrogen fuel cells is shrinking.
Methanol can be stored in structural tanks in the double bottom of a yacht, whereas pressurised or liquefied hydrogen requires valuable space above the tank top and extensive tank structures.
Peter Lürssen, who is the grandson of company founder Friedrich Lürssen, states: “My grandfather built the world’s first motorboat in 1886. My dream is to be the first to build a yacht without a combustion engine.”
Lürssen has been involved in research projects aimed at using fuel cells on ships for improved sustainability since 2005. “We don’t just want to use the latest technology on our yacht – we want to advance the status quo. And in order to change things, you have to be active. That is why we have teamed up with several top partners,” says Peter Lürssen.
The company recently revealed it is launching a year-long test of a methanol-hydorgen fuel cell power plant. “You could be carbon neutral if you use the technology,” Michael Breman, sales director for Lürssen, told Asia-Pacific Boating in a recent interview about the plant. “I think it’s a big step.” The test of the new plant will start in May or June. The plant will produce about 100kW of electricity and will be used to power one of Lurssen’s production sheds.
In summer 2021, the company is planning to launch its “Innovation Laboratory” to simulate and test the integration and operation of a Marine Hybrid Fuel Cell System on board a yacht powered by methanol.
Dr Justus Reinke, managing director of Lürssen, says: “Under real-life ambient conditions and with all required auxiliary systems we consider this demonstration plant (the Innovation Laboratory) to be the final preparations to bring fuels cells on board a yacht successfully. It will definitely bring us a step closer to a CO2 emission-free Lürssen yacht.”
The lab is being devised in partnership with Freudenberg, one of the leading experts for maritime fuel cells and a global technology group with 48,000 employees.
“We are pleased to enter into a long-term partnership with Lürssen, the leading, innovative shipyard in the yacht sector,” says Claus Moehlenkamp, CEO of Freudenberg Sealing Technologies. “Together we will set standards for a sustainable, emission-free mobility for yachts.”
Methanol is commonly used in the chemical industry and has been researched as an option to be used as a clean fuel for decades. When produced from renewable sources like CO2 capture from the atmosphere, “green” methanol is completely climate-neutral. Fuel cells also produce almost no noise or vibration, need minor maintenance, and are more efficient than diesel engines.
“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,” says Peter Lürssen.