Hydro Motion

For 15 years our boats have been successfully sailing on the power of the sun. This means 15 years of sustainable innovation and inspiring the maritime sector for 15 years. In 2020 the team took the big next step towards a sustainable maritime industry by exploring uncharted waters and starting a new project; the Hydro Motion project. The team built world’s first flying hydrogen boat! 

This year, we show our renewed identity as the TU Delft Hydro Motion Team and we will continue exploring the potential of hydrogen. We will design, build, test and race a hydrogen-powered boat. The goal is to inspire the entire maritime industry by showing what is possible with hydrogen. Together we can take the necessary steps towards sustainable shipping.  

We, together with our whole team, are very excited about the project! If you feel the same, follow us on our social media channels to keep up with our progress during the year @hydromotionteam 

Why hydrogen?

Why do we use hydrogen to achieve our goal? As scientists have been warning for years, the supply of oil and gas will inevitably run dry, and the exploitation of these energy sources will lead to irreversible climate change. We need to use different approaches if we want to move towards a zero-emission future. 

There are several options to generate green electricity. These include wind and solar generated energy. To come full circle it is essential that we do not only look at the supply side of the chain, but also pay attention to the way we store this energy. Right now, the industry tends towards the usage of chemical cells when it comes to storing energy and powering electric transport. However, this is only part of the solution to reducing carbon emissions in the transport industry, because different applications require different solutions and the demand of lithium is growing faster than the supply can satisfy. 

This is why we focus on an alternative way of storing green energy. The most prominent contender in our opinion is hydrogen. Using hydrogen as an energy carrier has the benefit that it doesn’t produce greenhouse gas emissions when used to generate electricity. On top of that hydrogen -when converted by fuel cells- has an energy storage density approximately 235 times larger compared to industry standard lithium ion battery cells. This is a huge advantage when it comes to powering a vessel. 

When we show what our boat can do, we prove the viability of hydrogen. By working together with the maritime industry itself we can inspire change. We are all part of a problem, which means we can all be part of the solution. Only by working together we can sail to a sustainable future! 

The first flying hydrogen-powered boot

Discover more about last years boat:

A world championship winning hull

This year we want to put as much focus as possible on making a well-functioning hydrogen boat, which is why we decided to refit the 2019 boat . We are reusing the three hulls of this award winning and sea worthy trimaran which was designed as a flying solar boat. Because we are making a hydrogen powered boat, we no longer need the solar deck, and for safety reasons, we replaced it with two nets. We also added a hydrogen system and a cap on top of the boat. The cap doesn’t just make us look cool, and fast like a formula one car, it also protects a crucial part of our design: the tank.

The cap and our hulls are made out of carbon fiber, a light and strong material. To make sure the hulls of our 8,3 metres long and 6 metres wide boat withstand the rough conditions of the Mediterranean sea, we reinforced them with even more carbon fiber. Lastly we put a wrap on our hulls. This does not only give us a good appearance, but also makes the boat watertight.

A world championship winning hull

This year we want to put as much focus as possible on making a well-functioning hydrogen boat, which is why we decided to refit the 2019 boat . We are reusing the three hulls of this award winning and sea worthy trimaran which was designed as a flying solar boat. Because we are making a hydrogen powered boat, we no longer need the solar deck, and for safety reasons, we replaced it with two nets. We also added a hydrogen system and a cap on top of the boat. The cap doesn’t just make us look cool, and fast like a formula one car, it also protects a crucial part of our design: the tank.

The cap and our hulls are made out of carbon fiber, a light and strong material. To make sure the hulls of our 8,3 metres long and 6 metres wide boat withstand the rough conditions of the Mediterranean sea, we reinforced them with even more carbon fiber. Lastly we put a wrap on our hulls. This does not only give us a good appearance, but also makes the boat watertight.

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350 bar pressure

The hydrogen we need to propel our boat is stored in the tank, located under our cap. Our hydrogen is stored in a gaseous state at 350 bar. To make this comprehensible, 350 bar is the same as the water pressure when you would dive down 3,5 kilometres. And even under this immense pressure, our tank is still 2,3 meters long and has a diameter of 50 centimetre. The tank alone weighs 120 kilograms, more than the entire 2020 boat, and contains 8 kilograms of hydrogen.

From the tank, the hydrogen goes to the fuel cell. A fuel cell is a device that uses chemical energy and transforms this to electricity. Our fuel cell uses hydrogen and oxygen to form water and generate electricity. We use this electricity to power the driveline, our electronics and everything else in our boat.

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350 bar pressure

The hydrogen we need to propel our boat is stored in the tank, located under our cap. Our hydrogen is stored in a gaseous state at 350 bar. To make this comprehensible, 350 bar is the same as the water pressure when you would dive down 3,5 kilometres. And even under this immense pressure, our tank is still 2,3 meters long and has a diameter of 50 centimetre. The tank alone weighs 120 kilograms, more than the entire 2020 boat, and contains 8 kilograms of hydrogen.

From the tank, the hydrogen goes to the fuel cell. A fuel cell is a device that uses chemical energy and transforms this to electricity. Our fuel cell uses hydrogen and oxygen to form water and generate electricity. We use this electricity to power the driveline, our electronics and everything else in our boat.

Sailing on hydrogen

To understand how our fuel cell actually works, we need to take a closer look at hydrogen itself. Hydrogen is an atom, an element. A hydrogen molecule consists of two atoms. You see two protons and two electrons.

Hydrogen goes from the tank to the fuel cell, and it goes to, more specifically, the proton exchange membrane. This is like a filter that only allows protons to pass through, but it blocks the electrons. That’s why, when a hydrogen molecule reaches the proton exchange membrane, it splits up into two protons and two electrons. The protons then pass through the filter to join an oxygen atom on the other side to form water. The electrons travel around the filter using a wire, and electrons moving via a wire means electricity. You could use this electricity to power a light bulb for example or to power our boat.

Sailing on hydrogen

To understand how our fuel cell actually works, we need to take a closer look at hydrogen itself. Hydrogen is an atom, an element. A hydrogen molecule consists of two atoms. You see two protons and two electrons.

Hydrogen goes from the tank to the fuel cell, and it goes to, more specifically, the proton exchange membrane. This is like a filter that only allows protons to pass through, but it blocks the electrons. That’s why, when a hydrogen molecule reaches the proton exchange membrane, it splits up into two protons and two electrons. The protons then pass through the filter to join an oxygen atom on the other side to form water. The electrons travel around the filter using a wire, and electrons moving via a wire means electricity. You could use this electricity to power a light bulb for example or to power our boat.

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40 kilometres per hour

To propel our boat we use a three phase electric brushless motor, which is the largest power consumer in our boat. It has 70 horsepower, similar to a Toyota Yaris car. The motor drives our propeller via a mechanical transmission of gears and shafts. We call this the driveline and it runs through our back strut. At the end of our back strut you will find a custom-made, aluminium propellor with two blades. The faster this propellor rotates, the faster we go. It propels our boat forward at up to 40 km/h.

When you take a look at our boat below the water surface, you see a three strut configuration. Each strut forms the connection between the hull and a wing. The two front struts are each connected to an L-foil and the back strut is connected to a T-foil.

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40 kilometres per hour

To propel our boat we use a three phase electric brushless motor, which is the largest power consumer in our boat. It has 70 horsepower, similar to a Toyota Yaris car. The motor drives our propeller via a mechanical transmission of gears and shafts. We call this the driveline and it runs through our back strut. At the end of our back strut you will find a custom-made, aluminium propellor with two blades. The faster this propellor rotates, the faster we go. It propels our boat forward at up to 40 km/h.

When you take a look at our boat below the water surface, you see a three strut configuration. Each strut forms the connection between the hull and a wing. The two front struts are each connected to an L-foil and the back strut is connected to a T-foil.

1000 kg flying over the ocean

The faster we go, the more energy we use and the more drag we experience, because our hull has to push through more water every minute. To reduce this drag we use hydrofoils. When sailing they generate an upwards force, known as lift. The foils and the struts lift our boat out of the water when we reach our take off speed of 22 km/hour. Roughly a thousand kilograms gets lifted out of the water and we will fly 40 centimetres above the surface.

The waves we face when we fly on the ocean influence the balance of our boat. That’s why we actively control our foils with a height control system. We have three sensors that constantly measure the height and orientation of our boat. That means that, when our starboard side drops ever so slightly, our sensors measure this and tell the starboard foil to adjust its angle of attack: generating more lift and re-balancing our boat. This way we can stably fly for extensive periods of time.

1000 kg flying above the ocean

The faster we go, the more energy we use and the more drag we experience, because our hull has to push through more water every minute. To reduce this drag we use hydrofoils. When sailing they generate an upwards force, known as lift. The foils and the struts lift our boat out of the water when we reach our take off speed of 22 km/hour. Roughly a thousand kilograms gets lifted out of the water and we will fly 40 centimetres above the surface.

The waves we face when we fly on the ocean influence the balance of our boat. That’s why we actively control our foils with a height control system. We have three sensors that constantly measure the height and orientation of our boat. That means that, when our starboard side drops ever so slightly, our sensors measure this and tell the starboard foil to adjust its angle of attack: generating more lift and re-balancing our boat. This way we can stably fly for extensive periods of time.

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The brain of our boat

The software is the brain of our boat. Without it, our boat wouldn’t even move forward. The software runs on printed circuit boards that we solder ourselves. With our software we control every system in our boat such as the steering wheel interface and the electricity flow from our fuel cell to the motor.

Sadly, there is a voltage difference between the motor and the fuel cell. In other words, they don’t match as well we’d like them to. In our boat the fuel cell supplies electricity to the motor. To match these to each other we use a device called the DCDC converter. The DCDC converter takes the electricity from the fuel cell and packages this in a way so that the motor can use it. So the electricity travels from the fuel cell via the DCDC converter to the motor. So the motor can use it to propel our boat.

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The brain of the boat

The software is the brain of our boat. Without it, our boat wouldn’t even move forward. The software runs on printed circuit boards that we solder ourselves. With our software we control every system in our boat such as the steering wheel interface and the electricity flow from our fuel cell to the motor.

Sadly, there is a voltage difference between the motor and the fuel cell. In other words, they don’t match as well we’d like them to. In our boat the fuel cell supplies electricity to the motor. To match these to each other we use a device called the DCDC converter. The DCDC converter takes the electricity from the fuel cell and packages this in a way so that the motor can use it. So the electricity travels from the fuel cell via the DCDC converter to the motor. So the motor can use it to propel our boat.

60 litres per minute

We have a fuel cell, a motor, a battery, tons of other electronics and then, not to forget, the Mediterranean sun, shining brightly on our boat. All of this generates heat, and not just a little bit of heat. The fuel cell alone generates more heat that the entire 2020 boat. Our parts can’t handle all this heat, that’s why we need to cool it.

We have a cooling system that pumps up 60 litres of water every minute. Through the L-foils, each attached to both the side hulls, the seawater gets pumped up and pumped around our boat to cool it. We have four loops in total to keep the heat down. The first one is the open loop pumping up the seawater. This open loop cools three closed loops. One loop for the fuel cell. One loop for the battery, and the third loop for all the other electronics in our boat. The heat exchangers transfer the heat between all these loops.

60 litres per minute

We have a fuel cell, a motor, a battery, tons of other electronics and then, not to forget, the Mediterranean sun, shining brightly on our boat. All of this generates heat, and not just a little bit of heat. The fuel cell alone generates more heat that the entire 2020 boat. Our parts can’t handle all this heat, that’s why we need to cool it.

We have a cooling system that pumps up 60 litres of water every minute. Through the L-foils, each attached to both the side hulls, the seawater gets pumped up and pumped around our boat to cool it. We have four loops in total to keep the heat down. The first one is the open loop pumping up the seawater. This open loop cools three closed loops. One loop for the fuel cell. One loop for the battery, and the third loop for all the other electronics in our boat. The heat exchangers transfer the heat between all these loops.

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