Energy Observer

Toyota sails into the future with the world’s first hydrogen ship, powered by renewables and seawater

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 18 July 2018

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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Energy Observer is the first autonomous hydrogen vessel that emits no greenhouse gases or fine particles. This electrically propelled vessel of the future is powered by a combination of renewable energies and a system that produces carbon-free hydrogen from seawater.

Launched in 2017 in Saint-Malo (France) and currently in the Mediterranean, Energy Observer showcases technologies that will support tomorrow’s energy networks to make them efficient and applicable on a large scale.

The Energy Observer team will promote this model, based on a mix of renewable energy sources and energy storage, on a worldwide tour.

A six-year journey

After leaving the Mediterranean, Energy Observer will travel to Northern Europe in 2019, with the aim of reaching Tokyo in time for the Olympic Games in 2020.

Victorien Erussard, founder and captain of Energy Observer said the Energy Observer team shares Toyota’s vision of hydrogen ‘as the key for accelerating the energy transition, a vision that we wish to carry to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.’

This six-year journey is both a human and technological challenge to test on-board technology in extreme conditions and to navigate the first energy autonomous boat around the globe. The crew will be led by Victorien Erussard and Jérôme Delafosse.

A hydrogen society

Hydrogen sits at the heart of the Energy Observer project, and is the main reason for Toyota Motor Europe’s participation. The hydrogen powered vessel has a considerable weight advantage (50% of the displacement of the ship) when compared with an exclusive battery storage solution.

In terms of energy storage, hydrogen is also key to overcoming the issue of the intermittent supply of energy both on land and at sea.

Matt Harrison, vice president of sales and marketing for Toyota Motor Europe, said the project demonstrates ‘the many practical uses of hydrogen that can be developed as we transition towards a Hydrogen Society.’

The benefits of hydrogen

Toyota has been pioneering hydrogen technology for the last 20 years, carrying out considerable testing in demanding conditions to ensure hydrogen can work as a practical fuel alternative.

Hydrogen allows for quick refuelling, a significant driving range and a great emission-free driving experience that is helping to power cars, like the Toyota Mirai, as well as buses, trucks and even forklifts.

During its expedition, as France’s chief ambassador for the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the Energy Observer team will produce documentary content about concrete and reliable solutions around the world.

Their encounters and discoveries will be broadcast through an eight-episode series on Planète+ next autumn, and also a web-series that will be shared on social media.

Click here to find out how the Toyota Mirai has helped to map the UK’s hydrogen infrastructure.

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