Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Hydrogen-powered foiling catamaran Chase Zero takes the first flight

Around a decade ago, the Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) first introduced foiling to the world of America’s Cup with their AC72 catamaran yacht. Now, just under ten years later, the team is introducing hydrogen-powered foiling catamaran ‘Chase Zero’ to the American Cup, which will surely turn heads in the international sailing competition. One week after its first introduction, the prototype powered by hydrogen fuel cells has completed its first flight around the Waitematā harbor in Auckland while leaving no carbon emissions.

The 10-meter-long (32.8 ft) prototype can accommodate six crew members and is powered by 80 kW Toyota hydrogen fuel cells, one in each hull. The hydrogen gas passes through a catalyst that strips the electrons away from the H2 molecules. These electrons are used to power the boat and then return to the positively charged H+ ions, which are combined with oxygen from the air, leaving nothing but pure H2O to exit the exhaust of the fuel cell. This electricity is then either stored in the battery or fed directly into the electric motors that provide the propulsion to the boat.

The 10-meter-long (32.8 ft) prototype can accommodate six crew members.
The 10-meter-long (32.8 ft) prototype can accommodate six crew members. Credit: Emirates Team New Zealand

The batteries onboard also play a critical role in allowing Chase Zero to accelerate and achieve its top-end speeds. Electrical Engineer Michael Rasmussen explains, “The fuel cells provide the majority of the energy; however, the battery acts as a filter for the faster changes in power demand. The response time of the fuel cell is much slower than available from the battery, so during fast changes in demand, the battery supplies the difference as a compromise in performance was not an option.”

Chase Zero is equipped with four hydrogen storage tanks, two in each hull, that can hold up to 32kg of green hydrogen in gas form at a maximum pressure of 350 bar. The tanks are made from a plastic liner wrapped in carbon fiber for the required strength.

The hydrogen-powered foiling chase boat can cruise at approximately 30 knots (55.5 km/h) with the 160 kW generated from the fuel cells, but thanks to the batteries, this can be increased up to 50 knots (92.6 km/h).

Chase Zero has been progressing through a highly measured and stringent commissioning process, with every element of the hydrogen-powered boat tested independently and collectively before bringing it up to foiling flight mode with the ETNZ developed autopilot in control of the ride height.

“This project is all about proving how we can influence the global marine industry by producing a prototype hydrogen-powered foiling catamaran. And today has been a huge progression towards that. We have no doubt there will be a lot of entities and organizations that will be watching and thinking how the technology can be adapted to their specific use case or ideas,” said Grant Dalton, Emirates Team New Zealand CEO.

The Chase Zero team will continue its commissioning process over the coming weeks to be ready for use when the team resumes sailing operations later in the year.

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