A new ‘hydrogeneration’ of yacht


We do not just want to use the latest technology on the yachts we build – we want to advance the status quo. And, in order to change things, you have to be active. That is why we have teamed up with several top partners,” Michael Breman, sales director, Lürssen tells Superyacht Investor.

Back in April, the German yard announced the sale of its very first fuel cell technology-powered yacht. The vessel, which is currently under construction, is the culmination of two decades of research projects and partnerships. According to Lürssen, the installation allows the owner more than 15 nights emission-free at anchor, or slow cruising for more than 1,000 miles emission free.

Since 2009 Lürssen has been a partner in the German national research project, Pa-X-ell. Here Lürssen has joined with other partners: Besecke, Carnival Maritime, German Aerospace Center, DNV, EPEA, Freudenberg and Meyer Werft. The aim is the development and testing of a hybrid energy system with a new generation of proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells for yachts and seagoing passenger vessels.

Partnerships have been key given the technology was just not available for the yachting industry when Lürssen began R&D. The firm has a partnership with Freudenberg, one of the leading experts for maritime fuel cells. “We both have the aim to bring fuel cells on-board ships in the near future and revolutionise the yacht’s energy and propulsion system,” said Breman.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set the target of cutting Co2 emissions from international shipping by at least 50% by 2050, compared with 2008 levels, with carbon intensity reduced by 40% by 2030. “This is a challenging target for everyone involved, but I believe it is a necessity and at Lürssen we want to do our part to build yachts that are ever more environmentally friendly,” he adds.

Breman is hopeful of progress in the wider industry too. “Many companies and other shipyards are actively researching for sustainable propulsion systems and it is most likely that there will be also other solutions than the hydrogen reformed from methanol fuel cell which we are aiming for,” he said.

There is high interest from buyers, but not every owner is technology-driven and ready to invest in this new technology. “The fuel cell is still in its infancy and many clients rather prefer proven technologies and will wait until the fuel cell is fully tested. But we keep on pushing.” One major plus is that the fuel cell can be retrofitted because no more space in the engine room is needed than with traditional systems.

Advancing the status quo is a slow process, but that is to be expected when you are pioneering. However, with the first sale now agreed, a hydrogen-powered yacht has gone from a concept to near reality. And the “active” approach Breman mentioned is clearly beginning to pay dividends.