Bringing together solar, hydrogen and methanol, the Archipelago zero.63 features a low-carbon combination capable of crossing oceans.

Archipelago Yachts and Chartwell Marine have just announced the final design for a low-carbon long-range passage maker. The aluminium-built Archipelago zero.63 harnesses cutting-edge technology and is aimed at setting a new benchmark for sustainability in the leisure marine industry.

This vessel boasts a revolutionary parallel hybrid system, seamlessly combining clean energy from methanol reformers and hydrogen fuel cells. This innovative propulsion system allows the vessel to cruise silently at speeds up to 10 knots, which thanks to its rakish twin-hull form will be very fuel-efficient. As well as methanol reforming technology, the zero.63 also harnesses a direct injection methanol engine, enabling it to reach a top speed of 22 knots when needed. Impressively, this craft has a 10,000L methanol tank, providing an anticipated range of around 2,500nm at its 10-knot cruising speed – ideal for long-range adventure seekers. 

The zero.63 will have four large en-suite cabins. Archipelago Zero.63

The zero.63 will have four large en-suite cabins.

The Archipelago zero.63 is poised to make a significant impact as its unique combination of methanol and advanced hydrogen technology offers a potential solution to the challenges of marine decarbonisation. Construction aside, this vessel is still likely to have some carbon footprint. Methanol reforming, in simple terms, combines methanol with water. Both components are pressurised, vaporised and subsequently heated to a very high temperature. The end result is the extraction of hydrogen, which can then be used in a hydrogen fuel cell, in this case to produce electricity for battery charging. A hydrogen fuel cell does not produce any C02, however methanol reforming does, though much less than an equivalent fossil fuel power output. The real advantage is that highly pressurised on-board tanks for large amounts of hydrogen storage are not needed. Instead, liquid methanol is stored in a conventional fuel tank. Methanol is still flammable like fossil fuel, but like fossil fuel it can easily be stored dockside, while hydrogen needs special high-pressure tanks, and a specific logistical system to resupply it. Methanol already has a history of being used in commercial vessels with direct combustion engines; it can be produced from various sources, with natural gas and coal having been the main sources in the past. However, ‘green methanol’ can also be produced from biomass – organic matter like energy crops and wood pellets. This method has not yielded much in the past, but with greater demand and more emphasis on green sources, this will likely change. 

Archipelago Zero.63 Built to be the ultimate go-anywhere adventure craft.

Built to be the ultimate go-anywhere adventure craft.

The Archipelago zero.63 combines quite a few more components into its mix. It combines a methanol combustion engine (using a combustion additive to reduce internal wear) in line with an electric motor. A methanol combustion engine works in much the same manner as a 4-stroke petrol or diesel engine. Some engines use spark ignition, and some have been known to use a small pre-injection of diesel fuel to ignite the subsequent methanol injection. The high compression ratios that high-octane methanol can handle make this possible. The Archipelago’s combustion engine is capable of producing sufficient power for 22 knots, while the electric motor on its own will enable a 10-knot cruising speed. This electric motor is primarily powered by a large lithium battery, which is recharged by both an extensive solar panel array and a hydrogen fuel cell. The hydrogen fuel cell is fed by a low-pressure tank, which in turn receives hydrogen from a methanol reformer, fed from the same fuel tank that also supplies the methanol combustion engine.

Extensive assessments have been conducted in collaboration with Lloyd’s Register, ensuring the highest standards in design and construction. The intention is for this yacht to be state of the art for zero-carbon technology, and it will be built from low-impact aluminium, using recycled materials wherever possible. It is fair to say that there are plenty of electric leisure craft that can travel short distances quickly, or long distances slowly, but the Archipelago is set to deal with big seas and cross oceans, and be as zero-carbon as possible into the bargain.

This project aligns with Innovate UK’s Transport Vision 2050, which aims to incorporate methanol as a viable marine fuel, targeting 25% usage by 2050. Chartwell Marine have secured an Innovate UK Smart Grant in order to reach this goal. With the design phase now complete, a demonstrator vessel will soon show the potential of this project. Known as ‘The Methanol Pathfinder’, it will serve as a platform for proof of concept. It promises to be cost-effective to build, and its hydrodynamic design, reminiscent of fast ferry vessels, opens up opportunities for commercial exploitation.

The basics of a fuel cell. Archipelago Zero.63

The basics of a fuel cell

The basics of a fuel cell

A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that combines hydrogen with oxygen to produce electricity, heat and water. The fuel cell is similar to a battery in that an electrochemical reaction occurs as long as fuel is available. Hydrogen is stored in a pressurised container and oxygen is taken from the air. Because of the absence of combustion, there are no harmful emissions, and the only by-product is pure water. So pure is the water emitted from the exhaust you can drink it. A fuel cell is simply electrolysis in reverse, using two electrodes separated by an electrolyte. The anode (negative electrode) receives hydrogen and the cathode (positive electrode) collects oxygen. A catalyst at the anode separates hydrogen into positively charged hydrogen ions and electrons. The oxygen is ionised and migrates across the electrolyte to the anodic compartment, where it combines with hydrogen.

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