Well as 2010 begins to wind down to the final minutes I find myself thinking about this past year and some of the trends I think I’ve seen that will impact 2011, at least as far as boats are concerned.
Two things left a pretty indelible mark in my mind as I left Louisville, KY and the IBEX industry show this year. One, hybrid boats are going to be a big deal as we look forward into the next few years. Two, we are going to see more and more vendors jumping into the Lithium battery game. These thoughts were further born out as I spent time as a judge for the Cruising World magazine Boat of the Year program. Hunter had entered an all electric drive sailboat. I’m sure others are going to jump in next year.
Another trend that group Beneteau is starting with their new Sense is the whole articulating saildrive / integrated electronically with a bow thruster set-up, pushing the convergence of traditional marine electrical installations with electronic systems to yet another level.
One of the side effects of all of these developments is the need to run things at higher voltages than most boaters are used to dealing with. In the photo below, we see the label on the battery charger for the Hunter electric sailboat:
As you can see, this one is running a 36 volt DC system. Other boats, like the Alerion I’ve reported on here this year run at 48 volts DC. I think we are going to see many more boats like this in 2011.
So, as I look ahead into next year I can tell you now that you can expect me to be talking about the implications of using higher voltages on marine electrical systems a lot after the new year. Also, you’ll be hearing a lot more about my thoughts on the new battery technologies as we move forward.
Stay tuned. Right after the New Year I’ll be back with my punch list of concerns about these trends from a safety and technical perspective. Its all good, but there are some very important technical aspects that must be addressed by both the standards writing groups and the boat builders if we are going to get this right.
Have a happy New Year and check back on January 3rd. I’ll be starting my list then.