LAUSANNE — A Swiss-based charity, Race For Water Foundation, wants to turn the PlanetSolar catamaran into a floating display of emerging hydrogen technologies.

"That's unprecedented on a boat," says Alexandre Closset, CEO of Swiss Hydrogen. "For the first time, a full hydrogen chain will be installed on a boat."

The vessel is covered with solar panels — Photo: PlanetSolar

The electric vessel, the first to circle the globe on solar power in 2012, will be departing from the French city of Lorient on April 9, to raise awareness about plastic pollution in oceans.

Covered with solar panels, the catamaran contains eight tons of batteries to store energy. "Enough for two days," says Closset. "With our hydrogen system, we've added six to eight days of autonomy."

The catamaran during its first trip around the world — Photo: PlanetSolar

So how does it work? The vessel pumps seawater, which is then desalinated and purified. "Electrolyzers" powered by solar panels split H20 molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, which is then stored and compressed in bottles, ready to be injected into fuel cells. Thus, the vessel produces energy but emits nothing but water vapor.

Swiss Hydrogen recently presented the "Hy-Rex10" kit, a built-in electric generator on a fuel cell of 10 kilowatts that was installed for demonstration on a Renault Kangoo ZE. The system made it possible to double the electric car's autonomy. For Closset, there's no doubt about it: Hydrogen has the potential to become a fuel source for the future.

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