Bill Gates is the first to buy a hydrogen-powered ‘superyacht’

Bill Gates’ investments in eco-friendly tech apparently include one of the more conspicuous symbols of his wealth. The former Microsoft chief has ordered Sinot’s Aqua, the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell-based “superyacht.” The roughly $644 million, 370-foot boat has all the trappings of wealth, including five decks, space for 14 guests and 31 crew members and even a gym, but it runs on two 1MW motors fuelled by supercooled hydrogen tanks.

Sinot even uses gel-based fire bowls to keep passengers warm outside instead of burning coal or wood. It won’t be a fast mover with a 17-knot top speed (19.6MPH), but its 3,750-mile range should be enough for cross-ocean travel.

The vessel isn’t completely eco-friendly, though. As dockside hydrogen filling stations are more than a little rare, the Aqua will have a diesel engine backup to help it reach port.

Aqua isn’t expected to reach the sea until 2024. It’s easy to bing up criticism of the purchase. Couldn’t the money for this yacht go toward funding electric and hydrogen vehicle projects that could have more of an impact than one boat meant for pleasure cruises? Like Gates’ investment in the sunlight electricity startup Heliogen, though, this may be as much about symbolic support for zero-emissions technology as anything else — in this case, proof that powered boats don’t have to make a huge dent in the environment.

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