Technology is beefed up for Fuel Cell Systems
With boaters travelling greater distances and running more electrical products, demand for more power is such that companies are bringing out larger, more powerful units, writes Katina Read.
One of these companies is Fuel Cell Systems, which is about to launch a new larger power unit of 500W.
“A lot of people have asked for more power,” said chief technical officer Tom Chicken. “Fuel cells are still gaining in popularity in the yacht market. In particular the race market is very strong for us.
“The more people who have them, the more people are seeing them and seeing the technology as the way forward.”
One reason for this is that offshore racing yachts use fuel cells as an efficient way to generate power without running the engine, which may not always be possible - due to the angles some of the yachts are sailing at not being suitable for the engine to run.
And with the increase in popularity has come a new emphasis on selling through distributors and chandleries instead of just direct to the end user; a move which means Fuel Cell Systems can continue to focus on developing the product.
The new unit is based on the company’s professional series that uses the same underlying technology as the standard version, but which has been ‘beefed up a bit’.
It is able to handle 24V and larger fuel cartridges, uses the same methanol fuel as its smaller counterparts and can again be easily connected to batteries.
“It’s been developed over the last few years and we’ve been running and testing it for the manufacturer,” said Mr Chicken. “We’ve got a full test rig and have been abusing it as much as possible, such as disconnecting when we’re not supposed to and pressing the wrong buttons on purpose. It’s really pleasing as no problems have been highlighted at all.”
Prior to the new unit, the company has been able to supply fuel cells up to 100W, aimed at yachts up to around 50ft.
As Mr Chicken explains, if the yachts are larger, the boats tend to have more electronic equipment, such as fridges and freezers and need a lot more power.
And while the professional series of current units can be used in parallel, the imminent launch of the new unit - due before the end of the year – will open up a new market to Fuel Cell Systems.
This will include vessels such as motor cruisers, inland waterways vessels and generally those that are more power hungry.
“The larger fuel cell is from the same manufacturer,” said Mr Chicken. “They’ve been making the same product for a long time and it’s been gaining in acceptance.
“It’s perfect for running lighting or entertainment systems at night as there is no noise.”
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