On a chase with hydrogen

On a chase with hydrogen

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On a chase with hydrogen

NAnd neither the venue nor the competing teams for the 37th America’s Cup have been determined. But there is no doubt that the most important sailing regatta in the world should become greener. Now the New Zealand team, which defended the cup in Auckland a few months ago, wants to equip its chasing boats of the racing yachts with hydrogen propulsion. If that succeeds, the Kiwis will once again position themselves as pioneers of technical solutions. Over the past few years they have repeatedly amazed the sailing world with innovations that no one had thought possible.

Christoph Hein

Business correspondent for South Asia / Pacific based in Singapore.

The New Zealand team is currently working on a prototype of a hydrofoil, hydrogen-powered catamaran speedboat. When its electric motor-driven hulls rise out of the water, it is reminiscent of the images that were broadcast from the recent America’s Cup with its boats “flying” off Auckland. “We hope that we can achieve a seismic shift in the direction of hydrogen propulsion,” says Grant Dalton, head of Team New Zealand. The demands are high, on such boats cameramen, team helpers and referees follow the new AC75 racers, which chased over the Hauraki-Gold at up to 51 knots (94 km / h) off Auckland. And there was only light to medium wind in those days. But the contrast caught the eye: when the octopus-like sailboats reached top speeds with wind power, their pursuit boats were each powered by four heavy Mercury marine outboards with a total of 1600 hp.

That should change now. “This initiative is not without risk,” says Dalton. “Because we have very specific operational criteria within our team and in the America’s Cup. It won’t be easy. ”If the new racing boat works, the New Zealanders as defenders and the challengers from Great Britain want to make it mandatory for all teams to use it. More than 20 of the new types of speedboats would then be built. “For nearly two centuries, the America’s Cup has pushed the boundaries in design and technology and ensured that innovations serve the entire shipping industry,” said Sir Ben Ainslie, who leads the UK team. “Now, with the whole world investing so much in hydrogen, switching to hydrofoil chasers powered by hydrogen could be a sustainable and practical solution for the future of the industry.”

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Such development work even exceeds the capacities of the New Zealand team, especially since they are already busy developing their next racer based on the winning boat. The sailing New Zealanders have been working with top engineers for many years, preferably from their own country. Other teams rely more on aircraft or automotive technicians. On the animation images of the new chase boats, the advertisement for Toyota is emblazoned on the red and black hull – but the Japanese have long been sponsors of Team New Zealand. So far, nothing is known about working with them on the new drive.

To do this, the Kiwis have brought other experts on board: AFCryo, a small joint venture between several highly specialized engineers in Christchurch, New Zealand, is to contribute parts of the hydrogen technology. The French Absolut Systems, one of the two partners, names 14 employees, but counts among others NASA and the European ESA and Airbus as customers. The other AFCryo partner, Fabrum Solutions, works with 25 people from Christchurch and New York and researches, among other things, superconductors, but also drives for submarines.

The part of the name “Cryo” is more known from cold therapy to break down fat cells. Cryogenics is the technology for generating extremely low temperatures and for using physical effects at very low temperatures. In Christchurch, engineers develop extreme cooling units for industry. This includes, for example, the CryoCube, a container-sized cooling device that can be used to liquefy oxygen or nitrogen in a space-saving manner under difficult conditions and in rough terrain. For example, blood samples or egg cells can be frozen or wine bottles can be disinfected. “We’ve been in the refrigeration field for 17 years,” says Hugh Reynolds, who oversees the America’s Cup project for AFCryo. “We have been developing systems for producing hydrogen for a long time. In this case, it’s about an aggressive development curve and a timeline on which we have to manage to store hydrogen (in a boat) on the water and use it for propulsion. “

According to the first draft drawings, the chase boats are to carry four hydrogen tanks in each of their two hulls, with three fuel cells behind each. Electric motors lift the wings and operate the rudders. If the attempt with the chasing boats works, then the hydrogen technology will also be used to a greater extent on the racing boats themselves, according to the New Zealand team. Yachts based on the type AC75, which was so successfully sailed in the spring, are to be used for the next two America’s Cups. This avoids the costs of fundamentally redeveloping the racing boats.

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