Yesterday we finished up with the ABYC Electrical PTC meeting and I walked away feeling though some of the most important issues facing the technical side of boating had been resolved.
I’ll give you a brief update on some of the specific issues we have put some new or revised standards language in place on here with a promise to follow up with more detail as the final language gets ready for publication. I think it is important for people to understand that this is a long difficult process and for a guy like me that has made the whole process a career and passion, I’m feeling like the committee made some significant progress this week.
So, here’s the recap:
We have finally developed language that will require overcurrent protection for DC electrical systems that are connected to very large, super high current potential battery banks. This language, when finally written into the Standard will provide for some of the new battery technologies like Lithium-ION and thin-plate pure lead AGM and whatever comes at us next from a technological perspective. The bottom line here is that we now have batteries in use on boats that have the punch to create enough energy to do serious damage if not properly controlled. ABYC has now built in some controls.
We have been increasingly seeing high current DC loads getting integrated onto boats. One of the problems boat builder’s today have to grapple with is wire routing through the boat. This often means that wires get bundled and sometimes those bundles are quite large and buried in the boat structure. This can create heat problems for the wiring. Well, one of the contributing factors in the creation of this heat is amperage. So, ABYC has now developed a new set of wiring and bundling tables that in some cases are going to derate wire amperage handling capabilities further than we have in the past. This is a good adjustment that is truly centered around changing needs of modern boaters, meaning that their “appetite for amps” as I have stated for some time just keeps going up.
Finally, the committee, after a battle of philosophies about shore power delivery systems that has gone on for at least ten and more probably fifteen years has approved the use of what are known as high-frequency switch mode transformers in shore power systems. Now to the average boater this means nothing, but for those familiar with transformer design issues you know where this is going. I am of the belief that more boat builders would be inclined to use what we know as isolation transformers if they didn’t weigh so much. Well by finally allowing the use of the high-frequency units we have now opended the door to units that are approximately 4X lighter in weight than any previously compliant transformer.
So, there is a brief summary of where we have gone on the electrical side this week. We have other groups here looking at issues with fuel systems, and that is really a continuation of issues dealing with EPA mandates. We are looking at matters involved with navigation lights, and certainly LED lighting is falling into that picture. Later today, I’ll sit in on some meetings that are looking at matters related to engine control systems. This is key stuff as we move more and more into the “fly by wire” approach on new boats.
Stay tuned, this is a big year for standards evolution as it applies to your boat. I promise to share as we start getting things into print.