Testimonial EFOY fuel cell

Silent power for regatta and long distance yachts

From Volker A.

After 40 years of offshore regatta sailings no break of dawn is known to me in which before the coffee can be made the main engine with its irritating noise doesn’t have to be started. This because the batteries are once again down to 11.4 volts and the wind instruments start to go crazy.

Then on top of this, the exhaust gases are collected under spinnaker, when there is a lot of wind one is worried about how many degrees list the generator can handel. Even though the batteries were loaded for an hour last night they are always empty, whether or not one switches off the cool box: I only know electricity as a nightmare subject!

We had already heard last year from Rogers 46 "Varuna" about the little wonder "fuel cell". Rogers 46 apparently completed Round Gotland Race without even starting the engine. This summer we used an EFOY ourselves, for long distance races like Gothenburg Offshore in the Skagerrak or our summer tour in the West-Swedish Skerries. Clearly said: We are thrilled with the performance! This fuel cell delivers a charging current of 5.4 amperes with 12 volts; so around 65 watts or 1600 watt hours a day. Perhaps 65 watts are not sufficient to supply the complete requirement for the bigger yachts with their numerous consumers. However, here help can be found with the parallel connection of another cell or occasional conventional reloading. For more economical energy consumers like ourselves, an EFOY is sufficient for round-the-clock energy. Why?

“The proven 120 Ah board battery, however, is an indispensible component of the hybrid energy concept, as it operates as a puffer.”

Volker A.

These lines are being composed in Kattegat with 24 knots true wind from 50 degrees and a few rain clouds, in small Surfs record 13.2 knots speed, on the way from Anholt to Kiel. Now in contrast to many races around Skagen the small petrol generator or the main engine have not been started up to now, because the batteries register notoriously less than 12 V, no, completely relaxed 12.66 V, all PCs and cool box turned on; no stench, no noise, no petrol spills, no electricity worries!

The fuel cell delivers silently and automatically working together with the battery enough electricity for the electronics and navigation instruments, the small cool box, the computer as well as at night for the positioning lights and the instrument lighting – 65 watts. Suprisingly our biggest consumers are the instrument lighting of the B&G displays and the watertight Panasonic Tough Book, here 12 volts have to transform into 19 V, and this of course costs amperes! More economical is an Asus eePC Netbook which consumes directly 12 V. The proven 120 Ah board battery, however, is an indispensible component of the hybrid energy concept, as it operates as a puffer.

The EFOY is about the size of a 120Ah battery (43.5 x 20.0 x 27.6 cm), is slightly higher, but weighs only 7 kg! We were therefore able to install it in the place where our now superfluous second Battery was, and connect via a short cable to the main battery. However, in the side wall of the old battery compartment it was necessary to drill two ventilation holes with a diameter of about 15cm, for the air supply, and for the waste heat, which as I said earlier is comparable with the noise level of a quiet PC fan.

The principle of the fuel cell is based on a kind of "inverted" electrolysis. The electricity-generating core of the EFOY fuel cells is the stack. It consists of individual cells, which each consist of an anode, cathode and a membrane which separates the electrolyte anode and cathode. Positively charged electrical particles; protons, can diffuse through the membrane. Water and methanol are supplied to the anode side and oxygen from the air to the cathode side. In the reaction at the anode side H + ions and free electrons are created, on the cathode side carbon dioxide (CO2). The protons can pass through the membrane; but the electrons have to travel an electrical circuit to the cathode side, and as a result producing electricity. At the cathode side water vapour arises from the H + ions, the oxygen and the electrons. In order to operate the EFOY you need a fuel; methanol, which SFC Energy supplies in special 5 or 10 litre fuel cartridges, these can apparently be acquired from 1500 suppliers world wide, in any case in Hamburg we didn’t have any problems acquiring our fuel for around 20 € per cartridge. This summer we only used 4 cartridges and this by continuous sailing with several crews, because when electricity is available from the shore or the main engine; the fuel cell switches itself automatically into the standby mode. There are only two choices on the remote control: OFF or AUTOMATIC, more you don’t need to know.

In addition to a very small amount of CO2 (according to the manufacturer comparable with the quantity in the air exhaled by an adult and therefore completely harmless) and electricity there is a small amount of heat which is extracted from the heat exchanger using a small fan. This heat does not replace the onboard heater, but warms the cabin a little on cold days. Of course when the temperature rises above 25 °C this side effect is understandably undesirable. This can be overcome and is also suggested in the instruction manuel by installing the air hose and routing the hot air to the exterior of the boat. In our case in Cuxhaven it was so cold just before the start of the North Sea week that we opted for the warming variant and even survived the well-known 30°C in July.

The consumption of the fuel cell given by the manufacturer is 0.9 litres of methanol per kilowatt hour; we were easy-going with our four canisters. If the cell would run continuously for 24 hours, a 5 litre canister would last for over 4 days (when the battery is charged at the start), that is enough for a 600 nm like the Fastnet Race or around Skagen. Switching the cartridge is no problem and is possible when the fuel cell is in operation. In a normal trip to the archipelago, however, the operation looks completely different as you starts the engine anyway and, or even get power from the shore. Here we didn’t even use half a canister in 14 days with 5 people and at times on anchor. Because the cell is switched off as soon as sufficient voltage is available in the battery.

I think the fuel is a must have for any offshore sailors, who appreciate tranquillity and can do without the disturbing smells and excess electricity consumers. Because different models with a rated output 25-90 watts are available in different price ranges, one should consider how much power is really required on a trip with a preloaded battery, and usually take into account the loading from the main engine or power from the shore. For those who require more than the offered maximum of 2.1 kilowatt hours of capacity a day, and have the required change their pockets, can connect several fuel cells in parallel or perhaps ask his better half to give up the hair dryer whilst at sea.

The fuel cell is maintenance free. In order to protect against frost damage in winter, it features an intelligent automatic frost protection, which activates when the fuel cell is connected to the battery and has a supply of fuel from the fuel cartridge. To save energy costs, the fuel cell can be easily taken out during winter and can be stored in a frost-proof place. We are interested to see whether the fuel cell will sail with us as unproblematic in the next few years as it did this summer.

Volker Andreae German Offshore Owners Association e.V.

“Switching the cartridge is no problem and is possible when the fuel cell is in operation.”

We didn’t even use half a canister in 14 days with 5 people and at times on anchor.

Volker A.

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