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Old 21-09-2016, 08:56   #1
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Any experience with fuel cells?

It seems the Watt Fuel Cell will be exhibited at the show in Annapolis. Their unit operates on propane and based on web site data could be a nice quiet alternative to a small genset. The bid questions will be price, reliability, and life.

Does anyone here have any experience with this new technology?

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Old 21-09-2016, 09:03   #2
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Re: Any experience with fuel cells?

One or two on here have, I believe they work on alcohol though, I'd be wary of propane myself.
I believe an issue is the charging algorithm, be really neat if one made 120 VAC and you could use your regular charger though.
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Old 21-09-2016, 09:34   #3
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Re: Any experience with fuel cells?

a. How much propane does the typical cruiser carry? 40# would be a lot, so consumption might be an issue.

b. Finding propane is not as simple as finding diesel.

Interesting, though.
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Old 21-09-2016, 10:22   #4
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Re: Any experience with fuel cells?

Their web site claims 14 days run time at 10 amp draw or 5 days at 30 amp using a 20 lb tank. Assuming these are 24 hour days that is pretty good performance. I understand that propane may not be readily available everywhere but for boats sailing out of North American marinas it should not be an issue. I have been looking at this for my PDQ32 that I sail in Canadian waters where propane is easy to get. The light weight of the system is appealing for a small cat.

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Old 21-09-2016, 10:40   #5
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Re: Any experience with fuel cells?

I think the technology is great for right applications - used by many navies for non-nuclear AIP subs. I think for recreational yachts, it makes most sense if your particular requirements provide a reason why diesel genset is not more economical, since you already have diesel onboard. Expanding safe propane storage is usually harder.

If I were building a ocean race yacht with expected support while at sea, it'll take care of electrical needs with minimal weight and space. Ditch the diesel gen or engine altogether
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Old 21-09-2016, 11:14   #6
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Re: Any experience with fuel cells?

What does it cost?
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Old 21-09-2016, 11:25   #7
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Re: Any experience with fuel cells?

Have the efoy methanol fuel cell. (search efoy on this site).

I like it a lot. Not the cheapest thing in the world, but on a mooring and have limited choices for charging. I like it. Hope the price comes down to a reasonable level at some point. I get about 4+ weeks out of a 10 liter container of methanol running the fridge 7x24.

Personally wouldnt use propane. Thats a lot of weight! And I am scared Sh**tless of propane on a boat (I hate that i have propane for cooking)
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Old 21-09-2016, 12:16   #8
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Re: Any experience with fuel cells?

My small cat only has two Yamaha 9.9 outboards so charging is limited. The solar panels handle normal loads but if my wife wants to run the microwave (we do not have a gas oven) off the invertor late in the day there is no opportunity to recover. At some point I would also like to add a power windlass which would also throw my solar panel recovery equation out of balance.
I currently have propane on board for the stove and the barbeque. I was aware of the efoy units but I thought methanol would be harder to come by.


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Old 21-09-2016, 13:22   #9
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Re: Any experience with fuel cells?

I saw this at the boat show">Annapolis boat show last year(2015), very impressive but expensive technology. There is no comparison to a piston engine generator, this thing has almost no moving parts and so quiet you can barely hear it, just the hum of the cooling fan. As for fuel consumption if you figure recovering from a 100Ah draw then running it for 4-5hrs to recharge should do it. A 20# tank should then last several weeks to a month. As far as safety no worse than a propane stove with the proper installation.
The downside is the cost, as of last year pricing was TBD but it will be about the same or more than a much more powerful diesel generator and many times more than a Honda 2000. I think this is why Watt Fuel Cell is pursuing the military/government market where cost is not an issue. BUT don't just take my words, contact them and find out, pleasant and knowledgeable people to talk to.

Good luck,
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Old 21-09-2016, 13:41   #10
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Re: Any experience with fuel cells?

To add to Steve's comments, I also talked with the Watt folks in Annapolis last year. They didn't have pricing but said I should budget around 10K for a unit. I really liked that they integrated MPPT features with solar for combined smart charging/draw and even included a NMEA 2000 interface built into the unit. However, if their estimated price point is where they end up, then it will be a hard sale imho. It's also a little concerning to see that they haven't been able to actually put the unit up for sale as far as I can tell in the past year.
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Old 21-09-2016, 14:12   #11
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Re: Any experience with fuel cells?

Quote:
Originally Posted by henryv View Post
My small cat only has two Yamaha 9.9 outboards so charging is limited. The solar panels handle normal loads but if my wife wants to run the microwave (we do not have a gas oven) off the invertor late in the day there is no opportunity to recover. At some point I would also like to add a power windlass which would also throw my solar panel recovery equation out of balance.
I currently have propane on board for the stove and the barbeque. I was aware of the efoy units but I thought methanol would be harder to come by.

It is not the easiest. The North East dealer stopped selling it.. so that increased my costs paying for shipping. It is sold in the north west and soon to be in florida.
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Old 21-09-2016, 14:41   #12
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Re: Any experience with fuel cells?

Quote:
Originally Posted by indimini View Post
To add to Steve's comments, I also talked with the Watt folks in Annapolis last year. They didn't have pricing but said I should budget around 10K for a unit. I really liked that they integrated MPPT features with solar for combined smart charging/draw and even included a NMEA 2000 interface built into the unit. However, if their estimated price point is where they end up, then it will be a hard sale imho. It's also a little concerning to see that they haven't been able to actually put the unit up for sale as far as I can tell in the past year.
The other cost issue is that the catalyst they use is far from cheap. I haven't seen hard numbers, but it works out to something like a $4,000 replacement bill every 4-5,000 hours. That's an operating cost of about $1/hour, not including the fuel cost, which is also supposed to be pretty high.

I am not saying that they have no role, or place in some instances,but until costs come down a solar panel will produce more power at a lower cost.
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Old 21-09-2016, 15:01   #13
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Re: Any experience with fuel cells?

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The other cost issue is that the catalyst they use is far from cheap. I haven't seen hard numbers, but it works out to something like a $4,000 replacement bill every 4-5,000 hours. That's an operating cost of about $1/hour, not including the fuel cost, which is also supposed to be pretty high.

I am not saying that they have no role, or place in some instances,but until costs come down a solar panel will produce more power at a lower cost.
I think you are confusing the Watt propane fueled unit with the methanol fueled units currently on the market. I wouldn't consider 20# of propane a month or even a week a high fuel cost compared to methanol.

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Old 21-09-2016, 15:42   #14
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Re: Any experience with fuel cells?

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I think you are confusing the Watt propane fueled unit with the methanol fueled units currently on the market. I wouldn't consider 20# of propane a month or even a week a high fuel cost compared to methanol.

Steve
You are right,I was thinking of the efoy unit.

I was curious so I did some research... Apparently there is also a diesel powered fuel cell that is either on the market or in final development. But it is a lot larger unit, more in line with a diesel generator. 100kg, 3kw output, and due to the way it works cracking diesel for fuel is much louder about 60db@3m.

http://www.fuelcellmarkets.com/conte..._PowerPac1.pdf
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Old 21-09-2016, 16:27   #15
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Re: Any experience with fuel cells?

I remember reading a Swedish company developed diesel fuel cells used by UK military.

I was hoping they would transpire to civilian use one day but can't see them coming. ;-(

I would buy a fuel cell. It fits our power usage mode very well.

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