Students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York will be recreating Robert Fulton’s historic journey up the Hudson River, but this time with a hydrogen-powered boat. In the early 1800’s Robert Fulton is credited with creating the first steamboat (and submarine).
Fulton used a steamboat he called the Clermont to sail up the Hudson between New York City and Albany. Likewise the students will use the hydrogen fuel cell powered New Clermont, starting this coming Monday, September 21, 2009, launching from Manhattan’s Pier 84 and retracing the same route and then on to Troy.
The ship chosen for this adventure was a donated 40-year-old 22-foot Bristol. The sailboat (sans sail) is being powered by two borrowed Plug Power 2.2 Kw fuel cells that weigh about 500 lbs. each and are typically used in forklifts and other industrial vehicles.
The students went through many iterations of design to figure out how and where to implement the various parts. Besides twin fuel cells, they decided to power the boat using two electric trolling motors typically used in fishing boats.
The students are trying to make it back in time for Troy Night Out on September 25 that occurs the last Friday of every month. When Robert Fulton took his historic trip, he was trying to prove the viability of the steam engine. This time, the students at the Polytechnic Institute are trying to prove the viability of the hydrogen fuel cell, which coincidentally only emits a little steam.