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Hydrogen fuel cell technology shows promise for eliminating diesel engine boats

The completed project demonstrates Bramble’s printed circuit board fuel cell (called the PCBFC™) technology in a real-world environment, serving as a showcase of hydrogen’s potential to decarbonise the marine sector.

Madrid wants to ramp up production of emissions-free fuel like green hydrogen
Madrid wants to ramp up production of emissions-free fuel like green hydrogen - Copyright AFP Valentin BONTEMPS
Madrid wants to ramp up production of emissions-free fuel like green hydrogen - Copyright AFP Valentin BONTEMPS

The UK Government has recently funded research into a new energy technology for narrowboats. The HyTime project has completed real-world testing with lead partner Bramble Energy, providing a new fuel cell system together with the custom engine builder Barrus.

The new technology offers a solution to replace diesel engines in boats which could potentially save 12 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually per vessel. This fits in with UK renewable energy initiatives.

For the project, Bramble Energy has designed, developed and deployed a unique marinised fuel cell system for use within a narrowboat. This stands as a first of its kind application.

For the trial, the 57 foot long narrowboat was launched onto the water in Sheffield, Yorkshire, where it has successfully completed testing, emissions-free, using a custom marinised fuel cell system. The fuel cell system has the potential to provide the vessel with approximately 600 miles of range using the 14kg of hydrogen stored on-board, as well as additional power being supplied from solar panels on the boat’s roof to the 22kWh battery system.

The vessel was built from the ground up, has been under construction in Sheffield where Bramble engineers have created a completely new design of a hydrogen system to meet marine requirements.

The completed project demonstrates Bramble’s printed circuit board fuel cell (called the PCBFC™) technology in a real-world environment, serving as a showcase of hydrogen’s potential to decarbonise the marine sector.

The hydrogen-powered narrowboat will now begin a testing programme on UK inland waterways with data collected helping Bramble develop future marine fuel cells.

It is hoped the technology will provide a viable route for accessing the hydrogen economy as they can be manufactured in almost any size or arrangement at much greater speed and scale than traditional electrochemical stacks, at a much lower cost.

The global maritime sector contributes to 940 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, equating to approximately 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gases. For the UK, the Clean Maritime Plan requires new vessels to be zero-emission capable from 2025. The project’s goal was to demonstrate how the shift to a hydrogen fuel source could help the transition thanks to providing a range extender to pure battery systems, but also to remove the reliance on a charging base.

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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