During a typical bicycle ride (30 km in a hilly region), about 200 watt-hours are used by the battery of an electric bike. In order to fully re-charge two bicycles (this is usually the case for caravan owners), the on-board battery has to supply a charge of about 50 Ah for these two batteries.
If you take a typical on-board battery with a nominal capacity of 80 to 90 Ah, considering that the actually available capacity is generally 50 to 70 Ah, depending on the state of the charge, you will quickly realise that, after charging two bicycle batteries, the on-board battery will be nearly or fully exhausted.
This is made worse by the fact that charging the bicycle batteries takes place in the evening or in the night, with the consequence that there is little or no support from a solar generator.
A fuel cell is a good solution to compensate for the performance deficit of the on-board battery. The smallest fuel cell, EFOY COMFORT 80, supplies a charge of as much as 80 Ah per day, making charging two bicycle batteries possible, even after longer rides in the mountains.
You must ensure, however, that you manually start the fuel cell at the beginning of the charging process at the latest to counteract deep discharge of the on-board battery. Furthermore, the on-board battery should be charged as much as possible before the inverter is turned on. If necessary, start the fuel cell in time during the day so the on-board battery is fully charged on your return from the bike ride, so you can start charging the bike batteries straight away.
Of course, as a general rule, it is advantageous to have a larger fuel cell (and a larger on-board battery) to remain on the "safe side" after longer bike rides with high power consumption.
If you are operating larger power consumers in the caravan such as a satellite TV or even a compressor fridge, I would definitely recommend the EFOY COMFORT 140 or COMFORT 210 fuel cells.
For decades, we have been absolute "camping opponents", successfully carrying out all of our trips by car. Our last car journey took us to the Lofoten, amongst other places.
We had to realise that in Norway, above the Polar Circle, the infrastructure is not up to the the central European standards that we are used to. This meant that even in a city like Narvik, the few existing hotels were completely booked by coach travellers. The next hotel in the nearest city was then about 400 km or 6 hours' drive away. This situation forced us to go to a camp site, though also 100 km away, where we managed to rent one of the huts that was still available at such a late hour.
How can you prevent such negative experiences if you've got Norway fever?
Observing and speaking to other travellers, it became clear quickly: it is only possible if you have your bed with you. We were forcefully converted to caravan people so we started to look for the "right model" after our return. Small, compact, yet everything on board - we chose an Avanti E box van from the German manufacturer La Strada. After a brief test hire with our desired caravan, it was configured for us and we ordered it.
As a qualified engineer in the field of electrical engineering, I have been in contact with fuel cell technology several times. I was therefore very happy that La Strada, as an SFC partner, offers a fuel cell ex works. With only an on-board battery, a solar panel and a fuel cell - this should cover Europe's North and South equally. Individually or in a network, this equipment should be able to deliver enough energy to run the diesel heater and the compressor fridge as well as the TV and lighting, even in self-sufficient operation. I believe that this combination has proven itself supremely in operation. There was no situation high up in the North of Norway, on the Lofoten or elsewhere, where this set-up did not deliver a completely satisfactory result.
For health reasons, we had to "swap" the Avanti E for a vehicle with single beds, slightly longer at 6.40 m, in the year before last. After the excellent experience with the new vehicle, there was no doubt for me that the new vehicle would also have to have a fuel cell. Sadly, our season last year was quite short. Our only journey was to Scotland. A lot also applies here as it does to Norway. Scotland's North boasts wild beauty, sometimes reminding us of Norway (but never quite reaching it), and there can also be quite a distance between towns. It's therefore good to have everything at hand in order to prevent unwelcome incidents.
With this knowledge and a full 10 litre fuel cartridge, we will start another journey towards North Cape this summer, well equipped.
Our La Strada Avanti EB has the following electrical configuration:
My wholehearted conclusion:
If we are ever to discuss a third vehicle, it will definitely be equipped with an EFOY fuel cell.
3 Jaar terug kochten wij onze eerste klimaatvriendelijke brandstofcel , de Efoy 1200, en dit vooral omdat wij het gewicht , en het storend effect van onze externe stroomgenerator beu waren . Door het frequent gebruik van onze Efoy 1200, ( om de draagbare computer en de elecktrische fietsen bij te laden) , zijn wij overgeschakelt naar een zwaardere versie namelijk de Efoy 1600. Hij verbruikt héél weinig metanol en is milieuvriendelijk , eveneens zijn gewicht is een aanrader met zijn amper 7kg weegt hij één derde van het totale gewicht van onze vroegere externe generator. De onafhankelijkheid die onze Efoy 1600 ons biedt is een pluspunt voor het vrij kamperen met de motorhome , hij is zéker zijn aankoopprijs waard ! Nog héél veel succes toegewenst aan het Efoy-team ! vanwege heel tevreden klanten
jean-pierre en martine
After 40 years of offshore regatta sailings no break of dawn is known to me in which before the coffee can be made the main engine with its irritating noise doesn't have to be started. This because the batteries are once again down to 11.4 volts and the wind instruments start to go crazy. Then on top of this, the exhaust gases are collected under spinnaker, when there is a lot of wind one is worried about how many degrees list the generator can handel. Even though the batteries were loaded for an hour last night they are always empty, whether or not one switches off the cool box: I only know electricity as a nightmare subject!
We had already heard last year from Rogers 46 "Varuna" about the little wonder "fuel cell". Rogers 46 apparently completed Round Gotland Race without even starting the engine. This summer we used an EFOY 1600 ourselves, for long distance races like Gothenburg Offshore in the Skagerrak or our summer tour in the West-Swedish Skerries. Clearly said: We are thrilled with the performance! This fuel cell delivers a charging current of 5.4 amperes with 12 volts; so around 65 watts or 1600 watt hours a day. Perhaps 65 watts are not sufficient to supply the complete requirement for the bigger yachts with their numerous consumers. However, here help can be found with the parallel connection of another cell or occasional conventional reloading. For more economical energy consumers like ourselves, an EFOY 1600 is sufficient for round-the-clock energy. Why?
These lines are being composed in Kattegat with 24 knots true wind from 50 degrees and a few rain clouds, in small Surfs record 13.2 knots speed, on the way from Anholt to Kiel. Now in contrast to many races around Skagen the small petrol generator or the main engine have not been started up to now, because the batteries register notoriously less than 12 V, no, completely relaxed 12.66 V, all PCs and cool box turned on; no stench, no noise, no petrol spills, no electricity worries!
The fuel cell delivers silently and automatically working together with the battery enough electricity for the electronics and navigation instruments, the small cool box, the computer as well as at night for the positioning lights and the instrument lighting - 65 watts. Suprisingly our biggest consumers are the instrument lighting of the B&G displays and the watertight Panasonic Tough Book, here 12 volts have to transform into 19 V, and this of course costs amperes! More economical is an Asus eePC Netbook which consumes directly 12 V. The proven 120 Ah board battery, however, is an indispensible component of the hybrid energy concept, as it operates as a puffer.
The principle of the fuel cell is based on a kind of "inverted" electrolysis. The electricity-generating core of the EFOY fuel cells is the stack. It consists of individual cells, which each consist of an anode, cathode and a membrane which separates the electrolyte anode and cathode. Positively charged electrical particles; protons, can diffuse through the membrane. Water and methanol are supplied to the anode side and oxygen from the air to the cathode side. In the reaction at the anode side H + ions and free electrons are created, on the cathode side carbon dioxide (CO2). The protons can pass through the membrane; but the electrons have to travel an electrical circuit to the cathode side, and as a result producing electricity. At the cathode side water vapour arises from the H + ions, the oxygen and the electrons. In order to operate the EFOY you need a fuel; methanol, which SFC Energy supplies in special 5 or 10 litre fuel cartridges, these can apparently be acquired from 1500 suppliers world wide, in any case in Hamburg we didn’t have any problems acquiring our fuel for around 20 € per cartridge. This summer we only used 4 cartridges and this by continuous sailing with several crews, because when electricity is available from the shore or the main engine; the fuel cell switches itself automatically into the standby mode. There are only two choices on the remote control: OFF or AUTOMATIC, more you don’t need to know.
In addition to a very small amount of CO2 (according to the manufacturer comparable with the quantity in the air exhaled by an adult and therefore completely harmless) and electricity there is a small amount of heat which is extracted from the heat exchanger using a small fan. This heat does not replace the onboard heater, but warms the cabin a little on cold days. Of course when the temperature rises above 25 °C this side effect is understandably undesirable. This can be overcome and is also suggested in the instruction manuel by installing the air hose and routing the hot air to the exterior of the boat. In our case in Cuxhaven it was so cold just before the start of the North Sea week that we opted for the warming variant and even survived the well-known 30°C in July.
The EFOY 1600 is about the size of a 120Ah battery (43.5 x 20.0 x 27.6 cm), is slightly higher, but weighs only 7 kg! We were therefore able to install it in the place where our now superfluous second Battery was, and connect via a short cable to the main battery. However, in the side wall of the old battery compartment it was necessary to drill two ventilation holes with a diameter of about 15cm, for the air supply, and for the waste heat, which as I said earlier is comparable with the noise level of a quiet PC fan.
The consumption of the fuel cell given by the manufacturer is 0.9 litres of methanol per kilowatt hour; we were easy-going with our four canisters. If the cell would run continuously for 24 hours, a 5 litre canister would last for over 4 days (when the battery is charged at the start), that is enough for a 600 nm like the Fastnet Race or around Skagen. Switching the cartridge is no problem and is possible when the fuel cell is in operation. In a normal trip to the archipelago, however, the operation looks completely different as you starts the engine anyway and, or even get power from the shore. Here we didn’t even use half a canister in 14 days with 5 people and at times on anchor. Because the cell is switched off as soon as sufficient voltage is available in the battery.
I think the fuel is a must have for any offshore sailors, who appreciate tranquillity and can do without the disturbing smells and excess electricity consumers. Because different models with a rated output 25-90 watts are available in different price ranges, one should consider how much power is really required on a trip with a preloaded battery, and usually take into account the loading from the main engine or power from the shore. For those who require more than the offered maximum of 2.1 kilowatt hours of capacity a day, and have the required change their pockets, can connect several fuel cells in parallel or perhaps ask his better half to give up the hair dryer whilst at sea.
The fuel cell is maintenance free. In order to protect against frost damage in winter, it features an intelligent automatic frost protection, which activates when the fuel cell is connected to the battery and has a supply of fuel from the fuel cartridge. To save energy costs, the fuel cell can be easily taken out during winter and can be stored in a frost-proof place. We are interested to see whether the fuel cell will sail with us as unproblematic in the next few years as it did this summer.
German Offshore Owners Association e.V.
We recently purchased an EFOY COMFORT 140 via Huib Swets in the Netherlands and I would like so share my experiences with you. Firmware 15.09, operating time 505 hours.
In a one-liner: The EFOY is like the mobile phone of the nineties: you didn't know you needed it, after you have it, you never want without it.
We use the EFOY to run our 30 foot sailing yacht Spirit, a Corby 30. As I am writing this I am racing in the OSTAR 2013. The OSTAR is a singlehanded transatlantic sail race form Plymouth in the UK to Newport, Rhode Island USA. Distance to be sailed around 3500 nautical miles. Duration 24 days. You can imagine the need for reliable power in this race. During this race we consume around 3 to 4 amps per hour. Main consumers are autopilot, AIS, VHF, RTE, chart plotter, running lights, Eberspacher heater and charging of mobile equipment like an IPad, camera's and iridium phone.
Traditional set up replaced by an EFOY COMFORT 140
In the traditional set up we had 2 105 amps AGM batteries charged by the Yanmar Diesel engine. The engine needed around 3 hours running per day to keep the batteries up. This had several disadvantages. Firstly running an engine for charging only is not good for the engine. Secondly with a light displacement boat the cooling water inlet comes above the water line which causes cooling problems. Further it is noisy and it is heavy. Let me explain more about the weight which is utterly important on a small light displacement yacht.
On a 25 day race the engine would use 25 x 3 liters of fuel, which is approx 65 kg. The two batteries are 32 kg each. By installing the EFOY we replaced one of the batteries by the EFOY. The EFOY consumed less than 25 liters methanol during the race. The weight for the EFOY is 7kg. The weight of the methanol is approx 21kg. And we saved one battery of 32 kg. That totals a weight reduction of: 69 kg!
Ease of use
The only thing needed is changing the cartridges when the EFOY asks for it. That is a job that can be done when it suits you as the battery will keep the boat running for a couple of hours. Changing of the cartridge is easy, no methanol can leak out, which is very pleasant at a boat smashed around in waves (compare this with refilling the fuel tank with diesel from jerrycans in heavy weather: fuel all over the place!) Further it produces water. I used a little plastic water bottle to collect the water, needs to be emptied twice a day. A bigger bottle would be easier. An alarm that helps you reminding to empty the bottle would be welcome, it is easily forgotten. The EFOY is so silent you easily forget the fuel cell. In a very silent harbour with no wind at all you might be able to hear it when you are focused. When sailing you just don't hear it.
My body has serious problems to keep up in this boat as it is banging around and smashed around on the waves. We had 45 knots of wind. That causes very rough movements in a 2.5 ton boat. The EFOY had been running without any problem. One of the cartridges caused a problem because the fuel suction hose came of the cap in the cartridge. Mounting the cartridge upside down still made it possible to use the cartridge. Longer term reliability obviously is not known yet.
Cartridge 1: 4,5 day, 900 miles sailed
Cartridge 2: 5 days, 850 mile
Cartridge 3: 4,5 day, 700 mile
Cartridge 4: 4,5 day, 600 mile (the one upside down, not totally empty) Cartridge 5: in use now. A total distance of around 3500 miles is expected, with less than 5 cartridges used.
Jac Sandberg, Netherlands