The world is moving towards electrification and while the focus might be on electric vehicles for our roads there is plenty of innovation happening on the water too.
Batteries like those in the latest BMW iX or Audi E-tron are ideal for small pleasure craft to glide along rivers or stay close to the ocean shore off Camps Bay or Ballito, but if you want to go further afield, say 1,600km perhaps, then many see hydrogen as the answer.
That’s certainly the case at Lürssen, the German yacht builder which earlier this year announced it was developing hydrogen fuel cell technology for its super and mega yachts. It’s not alone. Many parts of the industry are looking at this solution, for everything from commercial vessels to cruise ships, but ever since it built the first motorboat with Gottlieb Daimler in 1886, Lürssen has been at the forefront of innovation.
Despite its history, the yacht builder is most famous for creating some of the largest and most extravagant yachts. Its client list is a who’s who of the world’s rich and famous and its yachts are often seen at major events around the globe.
Its latest project is Alice, a 98m vessel designed by Lürssen with an interior by Dasha Moranova Designs. The images you see here are renderings and of a scale model with the company saying that it shows what a future yacht could look like. We do know though that the company is already building its first hydrogen fuel cell vessel for a client, so could this be it?
The design is certainly unique, with a deck that has been created to allow the owner and guests to feel as though they are in nature. It has the look and feel of wandering through a park with natural woods and water features. There’s also a floating pool that can be seen from the decks below it, a dance floor and multiple areas for guests to just lounge around and relax. The same is true inside where traditional teak has been replaced by lightweight, organically farmed wood and other materials that have been crafted to provide a feeling of serenity throughout the many cabins and communal areas.
It’s unlikely of course that Alice will emerge like the images you see here, though the interior features all seem entirely plausible today. However, it’s the propulsion technology that defines Alice as much as her design.
The yacht is said to be climate neutral, using fuel cells that create electricity to provide not only power for the yacht but to provide up to 1,600km of emission-free travel at low speeds. The cells themselves rely on hydrogen which is produced from green methanol.
In addition, there is a methanol engine to provide additional power and range. Methanol is regarded as key to marine transportation. It can be easily stored in tanks on shore for refuelling by everything from luxury yachts to commercial vessels. It’s easier to store on-board too, requiring fuel tanks rather than large hydrogen storage facilities.
It also opens up the possibility of multiple fuel cells throughout a vessel. A hydrogen fuel cell can be the size of a wardrobe, meaning they can be placed around a vessel to serve different purposes. One could be used for the air-conditioning, another for powering the lighting, while a bank of them can deal with propulsion. There’s a great deal of flexibility and fuel cells weigh substantially less than batteries.
Even so, batteries are required, a phrase we will be reading a great deal in the coming weeks as children open electrical presents. The various tenders, jet skis and other craft all run on electric. Then there’s the very clever upper deck. Here the helicopter on the pad is unlikely, at this stage anyway, to be electric but the deck features material that absorbs heat that is then recycled to warm other parts of the yacht.
The Alice might look as though it’s all about the design and luxury, but it’s equally about fantastic technology and innovation. It looks like a great way for Santa to get around this Christmas while being friendly to the planet, but sadly for Saint Nick, we’ve put Alice on our Christmas list. We’ll let him park his sleigh on the helipad though, so at least he’ll have a way to get home.