Conversion to Hydrogen

The current lockdown and restrictions on boat movements on the Thames has given us time to reflect on Daybreak’s  future. The project for this year was going to be sorting out the engine room, but the more I reflected on how to refurbish and reorganise, the more I realised that this would be a good time to make a major change.  Built in 1934 without an engine, Daybreak had a Lister JP2 installed in 1939. This was replaced in 1961 with the Gardner 5LW that has driven her ever since and which is still running perfectly well.

However an old diesel engine, however reliable, emits polluting gases and runs on a fossil fuel that we should all be weaning ourselves off. I was already interested in the potential of hydrogen as a renewable fuel and have been looking at fuel cells as a replacement for our mains generator.  The idea of replacing both the main engine and the generator with a system that is virtually silent and has no emissions seems like a very attractive option.

The system will consist of an electric motor to drive the propeller, which hopefully I will not have to change. The motor will be connected to a set of batteries and the hydrogen fuel cell through a power management system linked to a control at the helm. The compressed hydrogen to supply the fuel cell  will be stored in a large tank in the engine room that can be filled from a roadside tanker. The fuel cell will also charge the domestic batteries when we are not on shore power.

Lots of details still to be worked out of course, but I hope that we will be in a position to remove the old engine, generator and fuel tanks at the end of this season and then prepare the engine room for the installation of the new equipment next spring.