California State University, Fullerton

The Hydrogen Powered Boat

Revolutionizing Water Travel: Innovative Hydrogen-Powered Boat Engineering

Concept and Purpose

Envision a cutting-edge remote-controlled watercraft that operates using hydrogen fuel cells as a clean and efficient power source.

By integrating advanced technology to harness the potential of hydrogen, a renewable energy carrier, we can create the capacity for propulsion using renewable resources.

The Hydrogen-Powered RC Boat concept not only offers a thrilling recreational experience but also promotes environmentally conscious practices by showcasing the potential of hydrogen as a clean energy solution for marine applications.

Design and Components

The key components of our design include a compact hydrogen fuel cell system, lightweight materials for the hull, and a sophisticated control system.

The hydrogen fuel cell system comprises a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell stack, a hydrogen storage tank, and an onboard converter to generate electricity.

The fuel cell stack efficiently converts hydrogen into electrical energy, emitting only water as a byproduct.

The lightweight hull is constructed from durable and eco-friendly materials to enhance buoyancy and speed. Additionally, the boat features a streamlined and aerodynamic design to optimize energy efficiency.

The control system is equipped with a user-friendly remote interface, allowing enthusiasts to navigate the RC boat with precision.

  • 1. Hydrogen Fuel Cell System

    • Fuel Cell Stack: This is the core component that converts hydrogen and oxygen into electricity through an electrochemical process. Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells are commonly used for mobile applications.

    • Hydrogen Storage: You'll need high-pressure hydrogen storage tanks or a system for storing cryogenic liquid hydrogen on board.

    • Oxygen Supply (Testing is Required): The fuel cell requires oxygen, which can be obtained from the air. Ensure proper ventilation and intake for the required amount of oxygen.

  • 2. Hydrogen Storage and Handling

    • High-Pressure Hydrogen Tanks: If you're using compressed hydrogen gas, you'll need high-strength, lightweight tanks that can withstand the pressure.

    • Hydrogen Sensors (Optional): Install sensors to detect leaks and ensure safety.

  • 3. Power Distribution and Control:

    • Power Management System: This system manages the electricity generated by the fuel cell and distributes it to the propulsion system and other onboard systems.

    • Voltage Regulators and Inverters: To ensure a stable power supply to the electric motor and other components.

  • 4. Electric Propulsion System:

    • Electric Motor: Choose a suitable electric motor for marine applications. Consider factors like power output, efficiency, and size.

    • Propeller System: Match the propeller to the motor and boat size for optimal efficiency.

    • Battery System (Optional): Include a small battery system to provide additional power during peak loads or for emergency situations.

  • 5. Cooling System:

    • Fuel Cell Cooling: Implement a cooling system for the fuel cell stack to maintain optimal operating temperatures.

    • Electric Motor Cooling: Ensure the electric motor is properly cooled to prevent overheating.

  • 6. Boat Design:

    • Hydrodynamic Design: Consider the boat's shape and design to optimize hydrodynamics for efficient movement through water

    • Weight Distribution: Distribute the weight of the hydrogen storage, fuel cell, and other components to maintain stability

  • 7. Infrastructure:

    • Hydrogen Refueling Station: Consider the availability of hydrogen refueling infrastructure or plan for on-board hydrogen generation (e.g., electrolysis).

  • Other Considerations:

    • Range and Efficiency: Evaluate the boat's range and efficiency based on the hydrogen storage capacity and fuel cell efficiency

    • Maintenance: Consider the maintenance requirements for the fuel cell system and other components.

    • Data Collection: Incorporate real-time data feedback on hydrogen levels, battery status, and performance metrics enhances the user experience.

    • Safety Measures: Integrate an automatic shut-off mechanism to ensure secure and reliable operation, in the event of malfunctions or low hydrogen levels.

How Does It Work?

Our boat design integrates an electrolysis setup to produce green hydrogen, utilizing a cutting-edge PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) electrolyzer system.

  • 1. Electrolysis Setup:

    • Electrolyzer: The core component is the electrolyzer, which consists of two electrodes (anode and cathode) separated by a solid electrolyte membrane. The membrane is typically made of a proton-conducting polymer, hence the name PEM electrolysis.

  • 2. Electrochemical Reactions:

    • Anode Reaction: At the anode (negative electrode), water (H₂O) is oxidized into oxygen gas (O₂), releasing electrons and protons.

    • Cathode Reaction: At the cathode (positive electrode), protons (H⁺) and electrons combine to form hydrogen gas (H₂).

  • 3. Proton Exchange Membrane:

    • The PEM plays a crucial role in this process. It allows only protons (H⁺) to pass through while blocking the passage of electrons. This separation of charge maintains an electric potential across the cell.

  • 4. Electrical Energy Input:

    • An external power source (usually a DC power supply) provides the necessary electrical energy to drive the electrolysis reactions.

  • 5. Hydrogen and Oxygen Production:

    • Hydrogen gas is produced at the cathode, and oxygen gas is produced at the anode.

Overall Reaction:

The overall chemical reaction that occurs during PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) electrolysis involves the splitting of water molecules (H2O) into hydrogen gas (H2) and oxygen gas (O2). The reaction at the anode and cathode can be represented as follows:

At the anode (negative electrode): 2H2O(l) → O2(g) + 4H+(aq) + 4e-

At the cathode (positive electrode): 4H+(aq) + 4e- → 2H2(g)

Overall reaction of PEM electrolysis: 2H2O(l) → 2H2(g) + O2(g)

This reaction demonstrates how water molecules are dissociated into hydrogen gas at the cathode and oxygen gas at the anode, facilitated by the application of an electric current through the PEM electrolyzer system.

Key Points:

  • Efficiency: PEM electrolysis is known for its relatively high efficiency, especially at partial loads and rapid response times.

  • High Purity: The produced hydrogen is typically of high purity, suitable for various applications.

  • Modularity: PEM electrolyzers are often designed with modular units, allowing for scalability and flexibility in various applications.

  • Fast Response: PEM electrolyzers can quickly respond to changes in electrical demand, making them suitable for intermittent renewable energy sources like wind or solar.

Performance Goals

  • Speed:

    The speed of an RC boat is often a key factor. Smaller, electric-powered boats may have speeds ranging from 15 to 30 miles per hour (24 to 48 km/h), while larger gas-powered or nitro-powered boats can achieve higher speeds, sometimes exceeding 50 miles per hour (80 km/h).

  • Run Time:

    Electric RC boats usually have run times in the range of 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the battery capacity and the boat's speed. Gas or nitro boats may have longer run times but may require refueling.

  • Size and Scale:

    RC boats come in various sizes, from small models suitable for ponds to larger models for use in lakes or even the open sea. The size and scale of the boat can impact its stability, handling, and performance.

  • Hull Design:

    The hull design plays a crucial role in the boat's performance. Different hull types, such as monohull, catamaran, or hydroplane, affect stability, maneuverability, and speed.

  • Remote Control System:

    The quality and features of the remote control system can impact the boat's responsiveness and control. Higher-end systems may offer more channels, allowing for additional functions like variable speed control and servo-operated features.

Ideally, our boat will be able to meet all the requirements of a standard gas-powered boat with an adequate response time.

Our Development Process

Our project has an expected completion date of April 2024.

Meet Our Team


Starting from Left to Right / Top to Bottom:

Bryan Garcia, Matt Lindwall, Alex Garcia, Andrea Minero, Jose Reyes, Jerry Pratanavanich, Christian Dominquez, Davis Tran, and Bruno Gamboa

Events Attended

Energy and Sustainability Summit
Energy and Sustainability Summit - CSUF - ConferenceOctober 27th
Students Learn Green Manufacturing Methods for a Sustainable Future
CSUF Titan News - Students Learn Green Manufacturing Methods for a Sustainable Future - CSUF - News EventNovember 8th
SCCUR Conference
SCCUR Conference - CSUF - ConferenceNovember 18th
ECS Donors, Advisors, and Scholars Event
ECS Donors, Advisors, and Scholars Event - CSUF - Fundraising EffortDecember 7th