Hydrogen-Powered Outboard Breakthrough

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With a goal to achieve carbon neutrality, Yamaha Motor Corp. says it has developed the world’s first hydrogen-powered outboard for recreational boats.

Yamaha partnered with Roush to develop the fuel system and Regulator Marine is building the boat to test the prototype outboard, which was unveiled at the 2024 Miami International Boat Show.

The technology is still a work in progress, but viability testing is set to begin in summer 2024. Ben Speciale, president of Yamaha U.S. Marine, was hyped for the technology. 

“Yamaha is exploring all possibilities to achieve carbon neutrality, and we’ve made commitments for our operations to be carbon neutral by 2035 and our products to become carbon neutral by 2050,” Speciale said. “That goal within the marine market can only be reached through an approach that leverages multiple solutions. We believe hydrogen is a viable method of achieving these goals.”

The challenge for engineers is not the outboard but the tanks to store the hydrogen. Regulator Marine built a hull based on the 26XO and the hydrogen tanks sizes were like pulling on a shirt after gorging over the holidays. Yamaha has been working with Roush on the fuel system engineering, gaining the benefit of more than two decades of hydrogen systems research and integration.

“When you look at Roush’s history with hydrogen, it ranges from land-speed record vehicles to spacecraft. A lot of that knowledge we’ve acquired over the years we are now applying directly to this Yamaha project,” said Matt Van Benschoten, Roush’s vice president for Advance Engineering. “Yamaha is trying to determine if hydrogen can successfully be used in this market, and I think we will find out the answer is ‘yes.’”

Roush is handling everything from fuel system design and integration to the safety system analysis as well as testing and development.

The push for carbon neutrality comes as marine engine emissions are the cleanest it has ever been. Thanks to four-stroke technology and tougher government environmental standards, emissions have been cut by 90 percent while increasing fuel efficiency by 40 percent.

That’s why boaters are seeing more electric outboards and new boat companies trying to solve the carbon neutrality riddle. Yamaha isn’t overlooking electric technology, the Japanese company is acquiring Torqeedo, a pioneer in electric outboards. Yamaha reached a stock purchase agreement with DEUTZ AG to acquire all its Torqeedo shares. The acquisition, which requires regulatory approval, is expected to be completed in 2024.

During the initial testing phase, engineers are going to test the viability from range to safety. While testing the engine, Yamaha will develop standards and examine ways to build infrastructure, which can be a steep hurdle. It’s a safe bet most marinas don’t have hydrogen refilling stations. 

Joan Maxwell, president of Regulator Marine, jumped at the opportunity to partner with Yamaha and Rouch on the project. Maxwell is curious to see how the technology that powers rockets and automobiles works for the marine industry.

“If we don’t look for a new source, we won’t find a new source. Innovation starts by asking questions. It creates a little angst, but at the end of the day good stuff comes out of innovation,” Maxwell said. “In the future, as we design boats, if this proves what we think it will, it could be very possible that we are designing hulls around these hydrogen fuel tanks.”