Fuel Cell Dreams

Pete Econ of Columbia, Maryland, asks:"How long before we see fuel cells replacing generators on sailboats? They make a lot of sense in that they are smaller, lighter and quieter than generators. I see one yacht manufacturer is already installing SFC methanol fuel cells, and I know the military is using fuel cells to replace and supplement batteries."Nigel
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Pete Econ of Columbia, Maryland, asks:

"How long before we see fuel cells replacing generators on sailboats? They make a lot of sense in that they are smaller, lighter and quieter than generators. I see one yacht manufacturer is already installing SFC methanol fuel cells, and I know the military is using fuel cells to replace and supplement batteries."

Nigel Calder replies:

I’ve been dismissing fuel cells for over 10 years, but they are, indeed, getting close to being viable. Over 20,000 EFOY methanol-based fuel cells have been sold in Europe, primarily into the RV market. However, as far as I’m concerned they still don’t pencil out. If you calculate the cost of the power produced, it is still way too high, in spite of the obvious benefits (primarily silent power and lower emissions).

Having said that, breakthroughs in fuel-cell technology may make them viable in the marine market in the relatively near future. I have an article on this sitting on the back burner awaiting developments, so watch this space!

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