The world’s second richest man has bought himself a futuristic superyacht that’s powered entirely by liquid hydrogen – meaning its only emission is water.
Bill Gates is believed to have paid $645million in order to purchase Aqua, the plans of which were unveiled at the Monaco Yacht Show last year.
The luxury liner is 370ft-long and comprises five decks complete with space for 14 guests, 31 crew members, a gym, yoga studio, beauty room, massage parlor and cascading pool on its rear deck.
But its most impressive feature is locked away in the hold – two 28-ton vacuum-sealed tanks that are cooled to -423F (-253C) and filled with liquid hydrogen which powers the ship.
Gates, 64, is known to regularly take vacations onboard superyachts, however this is the first time he has bought one. In the past he would usually rent boats during summer trips to the Mediterranean.
The new vessel is not expected to be ready to take to the open seas until 2024.
The hydrogen is pumped through a special type of fuel cell which converts it into electricity, while emitting only water which can be safety pumped into the ocean.
Despite its novel fuel source, the vessel is able to reach 17 knots and travel 3,750 miles before it needs to refuel, enough to cover an Atlantic crossing from New York to Southampton.
When the plans for the Aqua were unveiled, it was only a concept but Gates decision to commission its construction is a milestone.
Designer Sander Sinot is hoping it will pave the way towards a more ecological future for the superyacht industry.
He said: ‘With every project, I challenge my team and myself to surpass ourselves. For development of AQUA we took inspiration from the lifestyle of a discerning, forward-looking owner, the fluid versatility of water and cutting-edge technology to combine this in a superyacht with truly innovative features.’
Working alongside Lateral Naval Architects, Sinot spent five months perfecting the details in the yacht in the hopes of one day being able to transform it into a real vessel.
The commissioning of the yacht is a sure sign of Gates’ interest in alternative fuels.
Gates is already an investor in Heliogen, a California start-up that uses smart software to control an array of mirrors that focuses the sun’s rays to generate extreme heat according to the Daily Telegraph.
The company aims to create a clean source of hydrogen gas by splitting water molecules without the use of fossil fuels.
Gates has long argued that investing in new energy systems is a better way to get companies to cut carbon emissions rather than forcing investors to pull out of oil companies when so much of the economy relies upon fossil fuels.
‘By investing in energy innovations, we can build on the progress we’ve made deploying current technology like renewables, which will help accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to a future of reliable and affordable carbon-free electricity,’ Gates said.
‘We need big breakthroughs in technologies that will allow us to supply the power grid with clean energy even during windless days, cloudy weather, and nighttime.’
Although this new yacht will be run on liquid hydrogen, there will also be an engine that runs on diesel as a back-up due to a current lack of hydrogen refueling stations.
Aside from the fuel source, the yacht’s other features include a wheelhouse that looks like something out of a spaceship, a huge central staircase spiraling around a water feature, and a beauty and fitness suite.
The rear deck features two entertaining areas – one upper and one lower – along with a cascading pool, sun loungers, and outdoor dining space.
There is also storage space for two 32ft tenders – smaller boats used to get to and from the main yacht – three jet-skis and smaller ‘water toys’.
Computer-generated images of the yacht, along with a 10ft scale model, were unveiled by Sinot at the Monaco Yacht Show last year.
HOW DO HYDROGEN FUEL CELLS WORK?
Hydrogen fuel cells create electricity to power a battery and motor by mixing hydrogen and oxygen in specially treated plates, which are combined to form the fuel cell stack.
Fuel cell stacks and batteries have allowed engineers to significantly shrink these components to even fit neatly inside a family car, although they are also commonly used to fuel buses and other larger vehicles.
Oxygen is collected from the air through intakes, usually in the grille, and hydrogen is stored in aluminium-lined fuel tanks, which automatically seal in an accident to prevent leaks.
These ingredients are fused, releasing usable electricity and water as byproducts and making the technology one of the quietest and most environmentally friendly available.
Reducing the amount of platinum used in the stack has made fuel cells less expensive, but the use of the rare metal has restricted the spread of their use.
Recent research has suggested hydrogen fuel cell cars could one day challenge electric cars in the race for pollution-free roads, however – but only if more stations are built to fuel them.
Fuel cell cars can be refueled as quickly as gasoline-powered cars and can also travel further between fill-ups.
Fuelling stations cost up to $2 million to build, so companies have been reluctant to build them unless more fuel cell cars are on the road.
The U.S. Department of Energy lists just 34 public hydrogen fuelling stations in the country; all but three are in California.
According to Information Trends, there were 6,475 FCV’s worldwide at the end of 2017.
More than half were registered in California, which puts the U.S. (53 per cent) at the forefront for FCV adoption.
Japan takes second place with 38 per cent, while Europe is at nine per cent.
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SOURCE: Daily Mail, Chris Pleasance and James Gordon