Is the Energy Observer the future of carbon-free boating?

A French research vessel dubbed the Energy Observer logged nearly 11,000 nautical miles in 2020, entirely propelled by renewable energy captured onboard.

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Electric cars are picking up market share among landlubbers, while the notion of electric ships plying the high seas can seem unmoored from reality. But a proof of concept is already circumnavigating the globe.

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A French research vessel dubbed the Energy Observer logged nearly 11,000 nautical miles in 2020, entirely propelled by renewable energy captured onboard. The former racing yacht is plastered with solar panels that fill up batteries and tanks of pressurized hydrogen. The ship travels on good old-fashioned wind power as well as an electric motor fed by batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.

Canary Media’s Julian Spector boarded the ship at anchor in Long Beach in late April, and verified that it is no mirage.

Julian Spector is an editor at Canary Media and reports on the rise of clean energy. He worked at Greentech Media for nearly five years, and before that he reported for CityLab at The Atlantic.