In August 2021 the Hydro Motion Team started working on the hydrogen powered boat that would win the Open Sea Class of the Monaco Energy Boat Challenge. This boat was going to show the potential of hydrogen in the maritime industry and so we set off with our team of initially 23 students to design, build and race with this boat. During the first few months we started with setting up our scope, the first requirements and our conceptual design. After having walked through this process, we started working on the detailed design of our boat.
During the Detailed Design we started designing our PCBs that would eventually control the entire boat. We were designing different PCBs for different purposes; we had our Energy Management System split up into two different PCBs, one for low power and one for high power. We also had a separate PCB for the steering wheel which had a lot of controls, one PCB for our co-pilot interface and multiple PCBs for the height control which would eventually control the foils. When our first designs were done, we ordered the first batch of PCBs which we could start testing by the end of December.
With the detailed design finished, it was time to start iterating on our first PCBs. Some PCBs did initially not function exactly like they were supposed to, others missed some functionality that was later also found to be useful. Luckily, the Eurocircuits system made it easy to quickly order new PCBs ready to assemble and test whenever we had an update on a version. Some PCBs needed only one iteration and others eventually got six updates to make sure that everything worked accordingly to the requirements.
As a team we worked through the production and assembly in the period of January until April of 2022 after which we were able to start testing the boat. With our PCBs now ready for sailing on hydrogen we could push them to their limits, both in terms of power and in terms of complexity. Mostly all the hardware supported the functionality of the boat, and we were able to spend most of our time on expanding the software on the PCBs and really putting all the functionality together. Within a few weeks we had a fully functional hydrogen powered boat which was already pushing the capabilities of current technology.
We had one more step left, which was to get the boat to foil, meaning that the entire hull would come out of the water and drastically reduce the drag of the total boat, increasing the efficiency immensely. For this we had the height control PCBs which would run our own software that would use sensors on the boat to make sure that it would always stay straight over the water. This proved to be very difficult and even though we were very close to getting the entire hull out of the water, we were running out of time towards the race in Monaco and could not get the boat to be stable enough. Because of this we chose to make the boat plane with the assistance of the foils, which would still increase its efficiency and make it more stable over the waves of Monaco.
Ultimately, we ended up in Monaco to participate in the Open Sea Class. During the first days we tested the boat in the waters of Monaco and had to finetune some last parts of the boat to make sure that it would work accordingly with the different waves and temperatures in the Mediterranean. At last, the moment had come for us to show what our boat was capable of. We scored a second place in the manoeuvrability challenge which was the first part of the championship. During the speed challenge we sadly had to stop halfway during the race because of a failure in the drivetrain while we were in a strong fifth place. Luckily, we were able to get the boat back to the harbour and fixed everything to eventually participate in the endurance race the next day. That was when we were able to show the potential of hydrogen in our boat. We sailed almost twice as far as the number two during the four hours that we had in the challenge. This number two was sailing on battery power, so the difference between batteries and hydrogen had been made clear.
We eventually ended up second in the overall championship, but got a prize for first place in the non-CE division of the class, which was what we were participating in. All in all, we are proud of what we have achieved during the year and especially happy with all that we have learned. Without the help of all our partners, among which Eurocircuits, we would never have been able to pull this all off. Thank you very much for all the support!
For more information please visit the TU Delft Hydro Motion Team website.