If you’ve been following our blog, you’re already aware of the fact that Humphry Marine, a Berlin-based startup that aims to make maritime transport more sustainable, has joined the second round of our High-Tech Accelerator.
In order for you to understand what they do and why it’s important, we invited them to expand on their project and to introduce themselves in a Q&A session. Their answers are below. Happy reading and, as always, don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need help to grow your startup.
In a nutshell, what does Humphry Marine do?
We create zero-emission, fuel-cell-powered propulsion systems for boats. Our controller technology enables highly efficient, powerful, and scalable powertrains that meet the requirements of a wide array of boat applications, ranging from small yachts and work boats to city boats with a capacity of over 100 passengers. Through retrofitting existing boats and equipping new boats with our propulsion system, we provide a superior and energy-efficient cruise experience that is compliant with upcoming environmental regulations.
Why is it important to address the issue of fuel consumption in the maritime sector?
Conventional drivetrains for boats run on fossil fuels and are energy inefficient. As a result, they generate considerable amounts of noise, air pollution, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in excess of one gigaton CO2 per year, corresponding to approximately 13 percent of the global transport-related CO2 emissions. The adoption of zero-emission powertrains in the maritime sector has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by the equivalent of 200 billion car kilometers. According to a recent EU study, air pollution caused by the emission of Sox, NOx, and particulate matter from conventional maritime transport accounts for approximately 50,000 premature deaths per year in Europe, costing society more than €58 billion annually.
In order to meet the GHG emission reduction goal set in the Paris Agreement, the global shipping sector needs to cut its emissions by over 70%. In a recent development, the 170 member countries of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreed on April 13 to halve shipping emissions by 2050 compared to 2008, following two weeks of intense negotiations that went down to the wire. These international developments point to the fact that substantial changes in maritime technology are likely to occur in the medium term.
How did the idea of a fuel-cell powertrain come about?
Our three founders—Moritz, Malte and George—have known each other for over three years. We all met in college and have conducted several projects together, including research on electric drivetrains as the precursor to the current business. We realized that boating and shipbuilding need to catch up with other industries when it comes to clean technologies. We evaluated the status quo and, after experimenting with different possible solutions for a maritime propulsion system, ended up with our fuel-cell battery hybrid.
What prompted you to found your own startup?
We are true ocean and nature enthusiasts and engineers by training, which made this specific window of need or opportunity more apparent to us. With the symptoms of climate change already showing, there has been an increasing awareness about cleaner technologies in all industries. Yet, the boating and shipbuilding industry has lagged behind in this respect due to technical immaturity and economic inertia. But we are going to change that thanks to our common interests and expertise in modern, eco-friendly technologies, and our strong desire to make an impact on the Energiewende. We are extremely committed and well-placed to turn our company into a successful enterprise and to offer an alternative to carbon lock-in in industry.
What can you tell us about the market outlook for your solution?
In Germany alone, there are thousands of commercial boats and public riverboats with a capacity of under 600 kilowatts serving more than 17 million passengers per year. Our solution is the only one that can compete with diesel engines in performance and cost, offering the additional advantage of preemptive compliance with upcoming environmental regulations. Reflecting the recent developments in the global maritime sector, more and more shipping companies are expressing a strong desire to lower or eliminate their GHG emissions.
Moreover, our consultations with different stakeholders have revealed that owners of luxury leisure boats are more inclined to be early adopters of clean technologies, meaning that a market worth three billion euro is likely to open up for us in the next decade. There are no real competitors at the moment, since the other few zero-emission producers are focused exclusively on battery technologies, which restricts their application area. Neither conventional, nor electric manufacturers appear likely to move into the higher performance electric market in near future.
Tell us a little more about your team.
The core team is comprised of industry experts that have been working together for over three years. During this time, both the team and the start-up have grown and consolidated. We are a cross-disciplinary group of naval architects, automotive, energy, and industrial engineers, software developers, and management advisors from world-leading transportation companies. Together, we have the expertise and skills needed to design an eco-friendly drivetrain and to bring it to market. Not only that, but aside from Humphry Marine, we helped create a network of industry and academic specialists in the fields of fuel cells, batteries, hydrogen technologies, and shipyards.
What are your goals for the AtomLeap High-Tech Accelerator program? And are there specific areas in which you would like us to help?
During our time in the accelerator, we want to demonstrate the feasibility of the drivetrain for which we are currently building a prototype. In parallel with the development of the first version of the controller, we are at the stage where we are assembling our test bench, which our academic mentor has already evaluated. The prototype will be launched by the beginning of the fall, after the test runs.
We hope that AtomLeap will provide us with the opportunity to work with high-quality hardware laboratory conditions to build the test bench, in order to facilitate the testing of our hardware prototype. Furthermore, we would like to learn how to engage with the right market actors during our time with AtomLeap and would benefit from access to your network in order to demonstrate our prototype to potential investors and customers. Also, we would like to learn how to improve the management of the company throw the workshops and trainings you provide. Last but not least, we hope to work on our corporate identity and brand.