Hydrogen-powered yachts are one step closer following a major breakthrough from Drift Energy.
The British start-up announced on Monday that its futuristic flying yacht successfully produced the gas while flying over the waves off the coast of Essex. The team claims it’s the first foiling boat in the world to generate storable hydrogen out at sea using just the power of the wind.
The 18-footer, which can hit 25 knots at full tilt, sports an underwater propeller that spins at speed and drives a turbine to produce electricity. The electricity is then used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
During the two-hour test run earlier this month, the vessel filled a 1.5-gallon storage tank with clean, green hydrogen. It produced so much electricity, in fact, that it could have made more than 10 times that amount if the tank had been bigger.
“This is a real breakthrough in the creation of a new renewable energy class—which is both mobile, scalable and anti-fragile,” Drift Energy’s CEO Ben Medland said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have produced the world’s first green hydrogen from a hydrofoil sailboat in the waters off Brightlingsea.”
Drift’s “secret ingredient” is a new form of artificial intelligence that is able to find the so-called “Goldilocks” of wind zones where the breeze is just right to maximize the vessel’s efficiency.
The company teamed up with AI firm Faculty to plot routes around the Atlantic with the best winds. The algorithm also uses weather forecasts and sea conditions to adjust the course in real-time.
The team has calculated that a flotilla of Drift’s yachts sailing from New York to Penzance could achieve a load factor of 72.5 percent. By comparison, load factors for wind turbines in the UK are 26.5 percent for onshore wind farms and 39.9 percent for offshore wind farms. In other words, the yachts are super efficient.
Drift Energy says it is aiming to trial the technology on a 130-foot yacht within a year. A vessel that size would be capable of producing in excess of 55,000 gallons of hydrogen per hour. Bring it on.