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First emissions-free, hydrogen-powered yacht heads on world tour

Energy Observer, a former racing catamaran, will test the energy of the future in harsh conditions.

Energy Observer, a former racing catamaran, will test the energy of the future in harsh conditions.

The world’s first hydrogen-powered, emissions-free yacht has left France on a six-year world tour. The Toyota-sponsored 98-foot Energy Observer is a former sailracing catamaran that has been converted into an eco-yacht.

Energy Observer is powered by renewable energies, including a system that produces carbon-free hydrogen from seawater and stores it in batteries for electrical power. The yacht was designed to showcase possibilities for alternative fuels that could go into production in the near future. The boat was designed to test these technologies in extreme conditions by circumnavigating the world. The crew is led by Victorien Erussard, founder of the project, and Jérôme Delafosse.

Toyota Motor Europe said it became involved because hydrogen is “at the very heart” of the project. It said hydrogen’s lighter weight makes the yacht 50 percent lighter than comparable vessels that run only on batteries. Most battery-powered vessels rely on an intermittent supply of energy from land or sea, whereas Energy Observer can access hydrogen from the ocean at any time.

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“This project once again demonstrates the many practical uses of hydrogen that can be developed as we transition toward a hydrogen society,” said Matt Harrison, vice president of sales and marketing at Toyota Motor Europe, in a statement.

Harrison said Toyota has been pioneering hydrogen technology for the last 20 years, carrying out considerable testing in demanding conditions to be sure it works as a practical fuel alternative. It is now used to power cars, such as the Toyota Mirai, as well as buses, trucks and forklifts.

The Energy Observer team will produce documentary content about local, reliable solutions that they encounter around the world. Their discoveries will be broadcast through an eight-episode series to air on Planète+ in the fall of 2019. There will also a Web series shared on social media. The team will journey to Japan in time for the 2020 Olympics.

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