Everyone is talking about hydrogen. But none of the established yacht manufacturers wants to burn their fingers on the energy carrier of the future. The technology is still too new, the instrument structure too fragile, and the reservations of conservative customers too great. And so it is up to an innovative founder to put the first series-produced boat with a fuel cell on the water, the Hynova 42. It is the young French skipper Chloé Zaied.
While many shipyards are currently thinking hard about whether to equip their boats with batteries and electric propulsion, Chloé Zaied is building her first motor yacht with a fuel cell that generates electrical power from hydrogen gas carried on board and oxygen in the ambient air. Its name: Hynova. It is her first boat ever.
At the Cannes Yachting Festival, the 30-year-old founder presented the prototype of a day boat that runs on hydrogen power. And it isn’t slow at all: At a working speed of twelve knots, the Hynova 42 can run for around eight hours until the tanks are empty. And afterwards, the open motorboat does not need to be plugged in for eight hours but refills the pressure tanks in about 20 minutes.
Provided there is a gas pump nearby. The only obstacle to the new propulsion technology is the lack of hydrogen filling stations on the water. Even on the road, the innovative technology is still rare: Germany currently has 90 hydrogen filling stations. But development there is moving fast: Five years ago, there were only 50. The world’s first public H2 filling station was only inaugurated in 2002.
Chloé Zaied presented the first serial produced boat with hydrogen propulsion in Cannes © Kerstin Zillmer
And Chloé Zaied is doing her best to adapt this pace for maritime refueling facilities: She is in active exchange with port operators and government agencies, the 30-year-old told float at the presentation of Hynova 42. Several new hydrogen refueling stations could open on the Côte D’Azur next year, so that an initial infrastructure will be in place when the first Hynova sails.
Three boats already under construction
Three boats with this quiet, emission-free and efficient propulsion system are already under construction. The technology, which was eyed with suspicion just a few years ago, is now considered safe and suitable for everyday use. „It works perfectly and is safer than lithium-ion batteries,“ says Laurent Perignon of EODev. The company supplies Hynova with RExH2, the fuel cell that produces electric power from hydrogen in the first model. Incidentally, the system was first installed in the record-breaking Energy Observer boat, which has been circumnavigating the globe using only solar energy since 2017. There it serves as a range extender.
The boat has a large swimming platform and four sun bathing spaces at bow and stern © Kerstin Zillmer
The Hynova 42 can carry up to twelve passengers. The hull is 4.2m wide © Kerstin Zillmer
The draught of the Hynova 42 is less than one meter, so it's ideal to go for a swim © Kerstin Zillmer
In principle, the unit also has this function on the Hynova 42, which basically is a battery boat whose batteries are continuously supplied with fresh energy from the fuel cell. On a first trip with the pre-series boat, the typical amenities that distinguish electric propulsion were already noticeable: Torque and power are instantaneous. The virtually silent engine draws attention to the surrounding element, bringing the sound of the waves, the whistling of the wind and the screeching of the sea birds to the fore. But of course, you can also put the levers on the table: up to 26 knots fast.
Parque Calanques is situated only a few sea miles away from Marseilles © CC BY-SA 3.0
With this, Chloé Zaied sees her dream realized: to be on the road in the midst of nature, without causing damage to nature: „I’ve often gone boating in the Calanques National Park and I’ve always dreamed of having a vehicle that doesn’t pollute the environment.“ Originally, the skipper had thought of a battery-only boat. „The problem was always the range.“ She has now solved that problem.