Yanmar, the Japanese maker of diesel engines for the recreational boating market, has announced the development of a hydrogen fuel cell system for maritime applications based on fuel cell technology for automobiles, as part of efforts to offer environment-friendly powertrain solutions.
With the International Maritime Organization announcing a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to zero by the end of this century, marine environmental regulations have been tightened worldwide and the implementation of emission control areas has begun to have an effect on ship operations. To date, Yanmar has successfully addressed the various regional demands for emission control regulations by developing dual-fuel engines (liquid natural gas and diesel) and ever cleaner diesel engine technologies. The next challenge is to develop non-fossil fuel powertrains.
As a part of this challenge, Yanmar has been working on development of future powertrains using hydrogen as fuel. The company has signed a memorandum of understanding with Toyota Motor Corporation to develop a hydrogen fuel cell system for maritime applications based on hydrogen fuel cell system components including high pressure hydrogen tanks on MIRAI, a hydrogen fuel cell automobile manufactured by Toyota.
With a view to realizing an easily installable module with superior cruising range, Yanmar aims to install the maritime fuel cell system on its own boat and start a field demonstration test by the end of this year. Furthermore, the company plans to expand the technology for a variety of applications and deployments.
With beginnings in Osaka, Japan in 1912, Yanmar was the first ever to succeed in making a compact diesel engine of a practical size in 1933. Moving on, with industrial diesel engines as the cornerstone of the enterprise, Yanmar has continued to expand its product range, services, and expertise to deliver total solutions as an industrial equipment manufacturer. Yanman is the only manufacturer who has developed a diesel engines built exclusively for marine use.
How Fuel Cells Work
This, according to the Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Energy Association, is how fuel cells work:
A fuel cell is a device that generates electricity through an electrochemical reaction, not combustion. In a fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen are combined to generate electricity, heat, and water. Fuel cells are used today in a range of applications, from providing power to homes and businesses, keeping critical facilities like hospitals, grocery stores, and data centers up and running, and moving a variety of vehicles including cars, buses, trucks, forklifts, trains, and more.
Fuel cell systems are a clean, efficient, reliable, and quiet source of power. Fuel cells do not need to be periodically recharged like batteries, but instead continue to produce electricity as long as a fuel source is provided.
A fuel cell is composed of an anode, cathode, and an electrolyte membrane. A typical fuel cell works by passing hydrogen through the anode of a fuel cell and oxygen through the cathode. At the anode site, a catalyst splits the hydrogen molecules into electrons and protons. The protons pass through the porous electrolyte membrane, while the electrons are forced through a circuit, generating an electric current and excess heat. At the cathode, the protons, electrons, and oxygen combine to produce water molecules. As there are no moving parts, fuel cells operate silently and with extremely high reliability.
Due to their chemistry, fuel cells are very clean. Fuel cells that use pure hydrogen fuel are completely carbon-free, with their only byproducts being electricity, heat, and water. Some types of fuel cell systems are capable of using hydrocarbon fuels like natural gas, biogas, methanol, and others. Because fuel cells generate electricity through chemistry rather than combustion, they can achieve much higher efficiencies than traditional energy production methods such as steam turbines and internal combustion engines. To push the efficiency even higher, a fuel cell can be coupled with a combined heat and power system that uses the cell’s waste heat for heating or cooling applications.
Fuel cells are also scalable. This means that individual fuel cells can be joined with one another to form stacks. In turn, these stacks can be combined into larger systems. Fuel cell systems vary greatly in size and power, from combustion engine replacements for electric vehicles to large-scale, multi-megawatt installations providing electricity directly to the utility grid.