New Hydromax 150 fuel cell. How much? £3,305. £62.16 for 10lt of fuel (both powders), which lasts 35-40 hours. Story by Toby Hodges
Hydrogen fuel cells offer a mobile, silent form of power that can be useful for recharging batteries in place of generators. But although the technology has been available to yachtsmen for nearly a decade now, uptake has been slow. The Hydromax 150 could change that; this new fuel cell promises to provide more power for lower cost than competitors, using portable, non-flammable fuel.
The niggles with fuel cells have previously been associated with shipping and storing the methanol fuel – and they offer an average of only five to nine amps of charge. The Hydromax uses a non-flammable fuel, stored in powder form, to provide 150-180W per hour – up to 14A charge for 12V batteries. Compared with the market-leading EFOY Comfort 210, which provides 8.8A, the Hydromax offers a third more charge for two-thirds of the outlay.
Hydromax was developed by Dynad in the Netherlands and launched into the motorhome market this year. The company is now expanding into the marine field and has appointed Allspars as a dealer in the UK.
It is the fuel that is the novel part. It uses malic acid found in acidic fruit and a saline solution. These come in powder form and are mixed with water to make a safe, transportable fuel. The powder can be stored anywhere on board and comes in 2.5lt malic acid cans and 1.2lt hydrofuel cans. These are poured into the 5lt fuel tank, before being topped up with fresh water. Mixing fuels does sound complicated, and the powders are comparatively expensive.
The Hydromax can be sited anywhere – not necessarily next to the batteries – but the fuel cable supplied is only 1m. The fuel cell measures 40x19x31cm and weighs 9kg. It will automatically recharge batteries to protect them from deep discharging, like the EFOY Comfort, and can easily be set to operate at a desired voltage level.
Alternative energy is in increasing demand by yachtsmen. A fuel cell combined with a modern hydrogenerator offers a temptingly quiet solution to onboard power generation. Is this the beginning of the end of the diesel generator?
Fuel cell facts
The Hydromax runs on an acid found in apples. The powder refills can be shipped and stored easily.
One key attraction of fuel cells is that they have no moving parts and run almost silently
Fuel cell review
Philippe Falle, one of our expert gear reviewers, sailed across the Atlantic with an EFOY Comfort 210 fuel cell aboard the Grand Soleil 43 Quokka 8 and has mixed feelings about it.
“It says it can produce 8A, but in reality we were only getting around 5A, which is an expensive addition just to keep up with instruments and nav lights,” he reports.
The Quokka crew also got through 30lt of methanol fuel – one 10lt can every four to five days – at a cost of £39 per 10lt.
Falle says: “On the positive side we only had to run the engine once every 24 hours. In short, it was light and noise-free, but expensive for the power output received.”
Falle thinks the output offered by the Hydromax sounds ideal.
How fuel cells work
Fuel cells convert chemical energy into electrical energy. They use a central stack of cells, comprising anodes, cathodes and an electrolyte solution. As electrons pass from the anode to the cathode, they produce an electrical direct current (DC).
A catalyst is used to oxidise the fuel – typically hydrogen – and methanol is often preferred as a hydrogen-rich fuel. Larger cells in a bigger stack series can be used to meet high electrical demands.
The by-products are water and a little heat, while methanol types also produce a small amount of CO2. The EFOY Comfort, for example, typically produces a mug of water per day, says distributor Fuel Cell Systems.
This is an extract from the New Gear pages of the November 2014 issue of Yachting World