The first self-sufficient boat powered only by clean, emission-free energy — and not just the wind in its sails — will start a six-year trip around the world in the spring.
Energy Observer, a former race boat now equipped with solar panels, wind turbines and hydrogen fuel cells, will use sun, wind and self-generated hydrogen to power batteries that run the boat’s electric motors. The $5.25 million boat is now in a French shipyard before heading to Paris for the first of 101 stops in 50 countries.
Designed in 1983, the 100-foot boat had a successful career in open-sea sailing races. The Energy Observer project was dreamed up in 2015 by skippers Frédéric Dahirel and Victorien Erussard, with scuba diver and filmmaker Jérôme Delafosse also behind the project.
“I’m passionate about new technologies,” Erussard said. “Building a self-sufficient boat could have seemed [unrealistic], but this is going to be an incredible vessel. It’s very promising for the future.”
The boat converts seawater into hydrogen fuel using a chemical process called electrolysis (pronounced ee-leck-TRAWL-uh-sis). It is also equipped with a kite sail.
“I believe that it is fantastic that a boat powered by hydrogen . . . will travel the world,” said Mark Z. Jacobson, a Stanford University engineering professor who is working to help countries convert to 100 percent renewable energies by 2050. “It is an important step forward and consistent with this proposed path to 100 percent clean, renewable energy worldwide for all purposes to solve energy security, job creation, air pollution and climate problems.”