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Toyota Motor Europe is sponsoring the Energy Observer, the first hydrogen-powered ship, on a sixyear voyage around the world. It’s the first autonomous hydrogen vessel that emits no greenhouse gases or fine particles, powered by a combination of renewable energies and a system that produces carbon-free hydrogen from seawater.
The ship’s primary sources of power are its 130 square metres of solar panels and two wind turbines. It creates hydrogen by removing salt and ions from seawater, before separating out the oxygen and hydrogen through electrolysis. The hydrogen is then stored in tanks to be used when needed, providing a buffer against the intermittent supply of solar and wind at sea. Hydrogen is a light and efficient fuel, so it can be easily stored onboard.
The Energy Observer is 30.5 metres long and has a potential top speed of 42 knots, although it usually cruises between 8 and 10 knots. It was launched in Saint Malo in April 2017, and over the next six years it will call in at 101 ports in 50 countries, including Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic Games.