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Uncharted waters: Blown fuses and other troubles send the New Clermont back to the docks as the team regroups

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Editor’s Note: A team of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students was traveling up New York’s Hudson River this week on the New Clermont, a 6.7-meter boat outfitted with a pair of 2.2-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cells to power the boat’s motors. Their journey began September 21 from Manhattan’s Pier 84 and was to cover 240 kilometers (at a projected speed of 8 kilometers per hour). After making several stops along the way, the crew originally expected to arrive back at Rensselaer Polytech’s campus in Troy, N.Y., on September 25. This is the fourth of Scientific American.com’s blogs chronicling this expedition, called the New Clermont Project.

Rensselaer Polytech, New Clermont, hydrogenUnfortunately, the intrepid crew of Rensselaer Polytech’s hydrogen-powered New Clermont wasn’t able to complete the trip from Manhattan to Troy along the Hudson this week. Chalk it up to complications from mashing several temperamental technologies—namely, hydrogen fuel cells and boat motors—together for the first time.

After spending Thursday morning reinstalling the New Clermont‘s motors—Wednesday was devoted to troubleshooting the power problems and devising workarounds—crewmembers Casey Hoffman and Leah Rollhaus left the marina in New Hamburg, N.Y., and continued the trip upriver. They soon found, however, that the problems with the boat’s fuel cell stack and electric motors hadn’t been resolved.

"With less power than normal, I was able to travel up river several miles but began blowing fuses just shy of the Mid-Hudson Bridge in the town of Poughkeepsie," Hoffman blogged. "I decided at that point that the safest thing to do was to return to New Hamburg and figure out what our remaining options are for powering the boat and completing our journey."

The New Clermont‘s crew has headed back to Rensselaer to regroup and figure out their next step.

Image courtesy of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute





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  1. 1. dbtinc 7:52 pm 09/25/2009

    hmmm, credit for the try but maybe next time try to validate on a local level before the big trial!

    Link to this
  2. 2. Frosty46 6:39 am 09/26/2009

    Overloaded circuits?————too much power from the fuel cells?, too little?, –great bit of reporting!

    We readers are smart enough to follow along technical situations = if given the details.

    Link to this
  3. 3. ormondotvos 3:53 pm 09/28/2009

    And I thought RPI was a serious tech school. Isn’t this a bit embarassing? Even freshman theory would likely solve this. What ever happened to real life tech geeks? How about some serious reportage. These kids should be using a yahoo group to gather advice from the very many serious electric boat heads, including myself.

    Are they using weedless props? Electric motors draw huge current at stall, unless you put a bucking current drop-out latching relay in the circuit. Resettable, you know, grasshopper relays, maybe fifty year old technology? Fuel cells, as I recall, will develop extreme short circuit current. Solution: prevent shorts with tripping relays. What’s with fuses, anyway? Where’s the monitoring circuit, the warning buzzers, etc. This is a boat. Can you burn a hole in the bottom and enjoy the water? Get serious.

    Link to this
  4. 4. fctech 9:24 pm 09/28/2009

    http://www.greenmuze.com/climate/travel/1597-bb2-breaks-speed-record-.html

    Link to this

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