Toyota is one of a few major automakers that has thrown its weight behind hydrogen as a future fuel source, and the Japanese firm is taking its learnings around the globe and to the open seas.
Toyota announced last week that it will support the Energy Observer, a hydrogen-powered autonomous boat.
During the voyage, Energy Observer will promote renewable energy sources and test onboard technologies in some of the ocean’s most extreme conditions. The vessel’s power comes from a mix of renewable energies and a system that produces hydrogen from seawater, with the process completely carbon free.
Unlike rival BMW and its i division’s electric yacht powertrain, hydrogen power also provides a major weight benefit over a battery-electric powertrain. It’s also key in avoiding energy supply issues when a vessel’s charge runs low. (BMW will support a one-man, around-the-world yacht race with a custom powertrain built by BMW i replacing the yacht’s standard diesel powertrain with an electric motor and hydrogenerator.)
The Energy Observer’s crew leads, Victorien Erussard and Jérôme Delafosse, hope to make the boat the first autonomous vessel to sail around the globe.
The boat is currently in the Mediterranean and will tackle Northern Europe in 2019. Toyota and the crew plan to reach Tokyo just in time for the city’s hosting of the 2020 Olympic Games.