FAQs

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If you do not find the answer(s) you seek, please use the “Contact” menu option to email us. Interested in what leading marine publications have said about Haveblue? Please click here to find out.

How does HaveBlue work on a sailboat?
How does HaveBlue work on a powerboat?
I need to motor a long way in my sailboat before I get to my favorite anchorage. Is HaveBlue the right solution for me?
Why not just use batteries?
How is the hydrogen stored in this system?
What is a hydrogen fuel cell?
Does the fuel cell power the electrolysis unit?
Where does the power come from to make the hydrogen?
Is water a “fuel?”
What is Co-Generative Power?
What is a regenerative electric motor?
Could a Haveblue system replace an auxiliary generator?
I am concerned about safety. Isn’t hydrogen dangerous?
Can I get my boat retro-fitted with Haveblue?
How much will a HaveBlue system cost?
How is Haveblue’s technology “patented?”


How does HaveBlue work on a sailboat?
Sailing vessels have lower energy demands than power boats. Renewable energy “co-generation” systems (solar, regenerative electric motor, wind turbine) could essentially provide all the energy needed to keep a sailboat’s battery bank optimally charged and produce and store hydrogen when the renewable energy that is available exceeds the vessel’s current demand. In other words, when your battery is “full” and renewable energy is still available, Haveblue stores that “excess” energy as hydrogen, rather than letting Energy schematic (click to enlarge)it go to waste. The hydrogen produced and stored would then be used to operate fuel cells to produce electricity when needed and/or could be burned in mechanical power-plants for propulsion. Of course, the ideal “green” yacht will be entirely fuel cell powered. Based upon the current technology, we believe that a range of 300 nautical miles (“un-refueled”) is possible for a HaveBlue equipped sailing vessel (such as a 42′ sailboat).

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How would HaveBlue work on a powerboat or houseboat?

Based upon size, use, and speed requirements, Haveblue technology can be used by powerboats. For example, houseboats, which generally motor to some favorite site and then anchor or dock, are excellent candidates for Haveblue. They have a great deal of available footage for solar panels and fairly consistent energy requirements. Regardless of how it is used, Haveblue’s renewables/hydrogen/battery hybrid configuration means no engine or generator noise or exhaust. And no expensive stops at the fuel dock. To read about a planned powerboat application, please use this link.

In the future, we also see development of scale-able hydrogen-fueled ICEs (internal combustion engines) and fuel-cell based auxiliary power generators (gensets) for the marine market. An added value in the use of Haveblue will be the ability to produce hydrogen fuel for a vessel’s tender’s outboard motor.

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I need to motor a long way in my sailboat before I get to my favorite anchorage. Is HaveBlue the right solution for me?

HaveBlue technology is right for you if your voyaging combines either a 6-1 (average) sailing-to-motoring ratio on a passage (or better), or if your use involves a “dash” under power under 100 miles, followed by time at anchor before the need to return home under sail or power (in other words, a 200 mile round-trip under power plus ample reserves). Of course, a key benefit of HaveBlue technology is that it can replenish its hydrogen while the vessel is underway whenever there is “excess” renewable energy available.

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Why not just use batteries?

Batteries are a key component in this hybrid system. But, as so many mariners have learned, an all-battery electric solution has drawbacks. The amount of energy that extant battery technologies store as a measure of their volume is much lower than the energy stored as hydrogen in, for example, metal hydride storage tanks. Each kilogram of hydrogen contains ~33kWh of energy.  If you then turn this into useful power with a 50% efficient fuel cell, you would have 16kWh of energy for onboard use and/or propulsion. And, unlike a energy stored in a battery, hydrogen storage will not “drain” or discharge.

Damaged batteryIn addition, high voltage battery banks are prone to serious problems if a single cell in the battery bank malfunctions – both on charge and discharge. If batteries are “over-charged” or “over-discharged,” they can be damaged. Also, flooded acid batteries are a safety hazard if their cases rupture – when battery acid mixes with sea water (like in the bilge), deadly chlorine gas results. While batteries do accept a higher percentage of the energy introduced during charging, they self-discharge over time. Hydrogen stored in metal hydride or compressed gas hydrogen tanks does not self-discharge.

With batteries, energy release when under high load is uneven at best – think about the performance of an electric golf cart or razor as it runs out of “juice.” A hydrogen tank releases hydrogen (energy) consistently, like the gas tank in your car, powering fuel cells that produce electricity (or providing the fuel for hydrogen-burning combustion engines). Batteries also suffer performance problems under regular use – some are prone to developing “memories” and others fail in frustratingly short periods of time. The life cycle of metal hydride hydrogen storage should exceed battery technology by an attractive margin. To reiterate, batteries are an important element in Haveblue systems. Much like with hybrid motor vehicles, Haveblue technology makes better use of batteries (and reduces their “footprint”) by constantly maintaining them at an optimal charge level.

Fuel cell powered car ferry in ScotlandMany marine applications are turning to shore-based hydrogen refueling to power ferries, canal boats, and even cargo ship using fuel cells. Land-based renewable energy systems are also recognizing that batteries alone cannot consistently and efficiently provide the needed power for those times when the sun is down and/or the wind is not blowing. There is also the issue of what to do with “surplus” renewable energy (a common occurrence for boaters with all-electric battery powered boats sitting at the dock). These land-based installations (and Haveblue) turn that “surplus” renewable energy into hydrogen energy. As Fuel Cell Today said recently in an article about the Isle of Wight’s “Eco-Island” project, “…hydrogen storage is increasingly becoming recognized as a viable way to balance the intermittancy of variable renewable [energy resources such as wind and solar]…” Or, as we like to say, when your battery is full, use that “excess” renewable energy to make hydrogen.

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How is the hydrogen stored in this system?
Hydrogen can be compressed and stored in tanks and also in metal hydride tanks. Compression takes power, so a benefit of low pressure storage is that compression requires less power to accomplish. But less hydrogen is then stored. A benefit of metal hydride storage is that it can “accept” hydrogen directly from many hydrogen generators (an “electrolyzer”), eliminating the power needs of compression. An added benefit is that the weight of these tanks, unlike the weight of a fuel tank, can be used as ballast (even in the keel of a sailboat). Think of hydrogen in the tanks of a HaveBlue-equipped vessel as if it is electricity in a bank of house batteries. Only better.  Our technology and intellectual property are also ready to incorporate”on-demand” hydrogen generation technologies, which could conceivably eliminate or greatly reduce tanking requirements.

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What is a hydrogen fuel cell?

Fuel CellFuel cells were invented in the 19th century by Sir William Grove and have been in use for many years, particularly in the aerospace industry. Fuel cells, like batteries, contain positive and negative electrodes (the anode and the cathode). These electrodes are separated by a polymer membrane electrolyte. Unlike batteries, which store their energy in the power-producing electrodes, fuel cells have the distinct advantage of using energy from external sources like hydrogen. When the chemical energy in a battery’s electrodes is depleted, it is either discarded or recharged.

This does not occur with fuel cells, which function and produce clean energy as long as they have an external fuel supply. The heat produced in the process may be reclaimed to increase the efficiency of the fuel cell as well as perform basic functions like warming water for cabin use. The water vapor produced can likewise be reclaimed.

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Does the fuel cell power the electrolysis unit?

Haveblue is a co-generative, interdependent marine energy “appliance.” The fuel cell is a chemical “powerplant” that provides electrical power to maintain the optimal battery charge (much like a fossil-fuel engine does in a hybrid car) and to assist the battery during power-need “surges.” Hydrogen generation is powered by a combination of renewable energy sources (wind, solar, regenerative motor), shore power (if available), and battery power (but never to the point of battery depletion or damage). Think of it as a renewables/hydrogen/battery hybrid system.

Electrolysis and fuel cell stacks

Electrolysis and fuel cell stacks

Back in 1800, William Nicholson and Johann Ritter independently used electrolysis to “decompose” water into hydrogen and oxygen. The drawback to electrolysis has been the economic inefficiency of using grid-based or generated electricity to power the process of separating the hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water. Basically, it costs more energy to produce the hydrogen then the value of the energy in the resultant hydrogen. Haveblue technology negates this drawback because it primarily utilizes renewable energy resources such as solar panels, wind turbines, and regenerative electric motors to power the process. Simply put:

  1. The electrolyzer separates the H2 and O (the H2 had been “borrowing” electrons from the O and, to stand alone, the H2 must absorb electrons),
  2. the H2 “stores” the electrons, meaning electrical energy, then,
  3. in the fuel cell, the re-association of the H2 and O into H2O no longer requires the electrons and, therefore, releases it – producing electrical power.

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Where does the power come from to make the hydrogen?

Solar panel and wind turbineIn the same way that solar panels, wind generators, engine alternators, and shore power can be used to charge batteries, HaveBlue uses renewable energy technologies (and, when available, shore power) to “charge” or fill hydrogen tanks by “splitting” (electrolyzing) water into hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen is vented harmlessly to the atmosphere; the hydrogen is plumbed into storage tanks. The water required is taken wherever the vessel happens to be afloat and, if necessary, processed to the needed level of purity by marine water-makers.

Naturally, each step in the process takes power (some of which can come from the battery bank when the battery is optimally charged or “full”) and imposes an energy loss on the original source of energy. Of the original energy used to make the hydrogen, approximately 50% is stored. Not bad when you consider the costs of fossil fuels, especially the “hidden” costs of extraction, refining, and delivery.

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Is water a fuel?

Absolutely not. Hydrogen production in Haveblue uses electrolysis, or the “decomposition” of water (H2O) into oxygen and hydrogen gas by running an electric current through the water. As stated above, this approach is not currently economically efficient if the electricity is grid-produced. But, as many have discovered, adding renewable energy resources to produce the electricity significantly reduces or even eliminates this economic inefficiency. Numerous land-based projects are using or will use this approach, as was discussed in May 2013 in Fuel Cell Today.”

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What is Co-Generative Power?

This is the use of one or more components (such as shore power, solar panels, wind generators, and/or regenerative electric motors or generators) to create storable energy to power the process of producing hydrogen fuel from water.

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What is a regenerative electric motor?

Several manufacturers offer regenerative electric marine motors. Essentially, they “spin the prop backwards” while under-sail in order to produce electricity. With the proper propeller pitch and size, any loss of speed is negligible.

According to one builder, a mono-hull under 40 feet in length will start to regenerate when the boat is doing about 5 knots, producing anywhere from 400 watts to 600 watts of electricity. Once it reaches approximately 6 knots, output will reach approximately 900W to 1.1kW. A multihull the same size can approximately double that output due to having two propellers in the water and less forward turbulence. This renewable, non-polluting energy can be used to charge the vessel’s batteries and, when the batteries are “full,” replenish the hydrogen tanks.

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Could a Haveblue system replace an auxiliary generator?

Haveblue can replace a marine vessel’s gas or diesel auxiliary generator only, if you desire. The primary power to produce the hydrogen “fuel” can still come from renewable energy resources like photovoltaic panels, but it can also use electricity from high-output marine alternators (as is common with battery charging), as well as renewable energy and available shore power.

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I am concerned about safety. Isn’t hydrogen dangerous?

Hydrogen is actually safer than gasoline. It rises at six feet per second instead of sinking down into a bilge. Hydrogen requires a concentration of 4.5% to become flammable vs. gasoline’s 1.5% concentration. Such concentration is rare because hydrogen rises so quickly. Batteries have their own safety issues, as mentioned above. Also, contemporary li-ion battery banks require temperature regulation or they become flammable. They also remain expensive.

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Can I get my boat retro-fitted with Haveblue?

HaveBlue is interested in working with mono- or multi-hull sailboat builders and/or owners considering engine re-fits. Use the “Contact” link above to get more information. As mentioned previously, we are presently working with a boat builder to install a Haveblue system in a 60′ recreational trawler.

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How much will a HaveBlue system cost?

Custom installations and factory built boats will initially cost more than a comparable diesel or gasoline powered system. How much more depends on the specifics of your application. At this time (without taking into consideration federal, state, or local clean-air/clean-energy incentives), we estimate a HaveBlue system will add approximately 10-20% to the retail engine cost of a sailboat (and this premium is steadily decreasing).

The absence of fuel or exhaust smell, reduction in noise, low vibration, zero pollution, and independence from shore for fuel and fresh water will be worth the price difference to discriminating boat owners. Independence Green Yachts‘s recreational trawler project will offer a sixty foot vessel at a price point that is competitive with existing fossil-fuel powered trawlers. As fuel cell technologies continue to move into the automotive and home energy markets, their cost will continue to fall as it has done in the past.

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How is Haveblue’s technology “patented?”

Haveblue is protected by U.S. Patent #6,610,193 as well as by international patents.

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