First ever methanol-powered leisure boat

Firms use £320k InnovateUK Smart Grant to implement methanol fuel cell technology on new catamaran design, inspired by offshore wind vessel sector


Archipelago Expedition Yachts, high-class leisure shipbuilding firm, and Chartwell Marine, UK pioneer of next-generation vessel design for the offshore wind sector, have continued their cross-industry collaboration with the announcement of the Archipelago zero.63: the first ever methanol-fuelled, zero-carbon, ocean-capable leisure vessel on the market.

Following Chartwell’s successful procurement of a £320,000 InnovateUK Smart Grant to implement methanol propulsion technology in a new vessel design, the company opted to prove the concept with its trusted partner in the leisure sector. The Archipelago zero.63 will be single-fuelled, powered by a combination of methanol-reforming fuel cell technology and a methanol combustion engine.

While there has been significant investment in methanol fuelling in the commercial vessel market, the leisure sector has largely limited its green options to electric operation — but the low energy density of pure batteries makes them less suitable for long distance use. Archipelago’s mission statement is to create sustainable, high-performance “explorer” vessels, and methanol fuel propulsion aligns with that vision. It is energy-dense, commonplace, safe for the local environment even when spilled, and has little or no carbon footprint when produced from sustainable biomass.

Sister to the flagship Archipelago 47 catamaran launched last year, the new 63-foot vessel draws similar inspiration from the multihulls currently providing crew transfer services to the offshore wind industry. Boasting a range of 2000+ nautical miles, the Archipelago zero.63 is built for distance, with both calm cruising and more daring seafaring in mind. With a top speed of 18 knots, its optimised hull forms are made from light and sustainable aluminium, supporting an elevated wet deck to eliminate wave slamming in high sea states and maintain the characteristic nimbleness of Chartwell’s high-performance catamaran designs.

The spacious, flexible layout between the hulls comfortably accommodates up to eight sleepers in four cabins, furnished with Archipelago’s unique modern styling. This flexibility also extends to the propulsion system itself, with the methanol-reforming system able to be seamlessly swapped out for other options as new technology arises. A dedicated “methanol room” on deck, large enough to house fuel cells totalling 300kw, will be accompanied by batteries and 40 square meters of solar panels on the roof.

Dr Stephen Weatherley, Managing Director of Archipelago Expedition Yachts, said: “For this project, we wanted to cut through some of the noise being made about electric and hydrogen propulsion, which we feel simply aren’t ready for practical implementation on leisure craft. Methanol is the alternative fuel that ticks all the boxes for us as a sustainable, practical, and adventurous company, and we’re proud to have it at the heart of our newest offering to the market.”

Andy Page, Director of Chartwell Marine, said: “It’s fantastic to be working with Archipelago once again for the opportunity to bring innovative technologies from the commercial sector to another unique leisure design. We see the Archipelago zero.63 as not only a complete market-first offering in its own right, but also as the perfect proof-of-concept for a future application of methanol propulsion technology in the offshore wind vessel sector itself.”

This article is shared by courtesy of Achiepelago Expedition yachts – www.archipelago-yachts.co.uk

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