The big voltage debate is growing in the marine industry as the move away from fossil fuels used on boats gathers pace. Ralph Olingschlaeger, Managing Director of galley solutions manufacturer GN Espace, has been examining current trends and is observing what he calls a “collision” between the white goods /domestic appliance industry and the all-powerful automotive industry.
When headlines in the boating press highlight the all-electric boat they focus heavily on propulsion. Clearly this is the biggest environmental gain in moving away from fossil fuels used by the engine. Technical developments in this area are being driven by the automotive industry which appears to be heading towards adopting a 48V DC system for powering the large load motors. Just as it was with the internal combustion engine, the marinisation of automotive components is key. These high load 48V DC motors and components will be marinised and will most probably run in parallel to the yacht’s 12V DC supply system for lighting and marine electronics.
Olingschlaeger explains how the power specifications of marine cookers and other galley products, such as dishwashers and laundry machines, are here to stay, despite a perceived conflict. “There have been calls from prospective customers looking to buy from our electric cooker range to fall in line with the likely 48V DC onboard system, but this really makes no sense either technically or commercially. Domestic appliances typically run on 240 volts while the future of the electric car industry is setting its sights on having a 48 volt system on board. Products that hope to contribute to net-zero emissions in the marine sector, however, have to include appliances that are morphing from the domestic appliance industry. Most home cookers are rated at 230VAC in line with the power supply into the home and dockside, and that voltage isn’t going to change.”
Increasingly popular in boat galleys are marine electric induction cookers like those manufactured by GN Espace, one of only a handful of manufacturers currently offering a complete specification for marine use. These are developed using highly sophisticated domestic appliance components to create an electric cooker to be 50% more efficient than traditional onboard gas cookers, while continuing to run on 230 volts. “There is no doubt that the car industry is leading the huge advances we are seeing in the use of electricity to replace traditional fossil fuels,” continues Olingschlaeger. “But boating is going to have to advance its changeover to all-electric by running hybrid electrical systems which utilize all forms of renewable electrical power generation feeding a battery bank. Net zero boating is a very realistic goal but at the same time there is no domestic appliance industry trend away from 230V so we just need to eliminate the discussion about 48 volts. It simply doesn’t make sense in boating and there is no need to move away from the status quo.”
It is worth examining the backdrop to the voltage debate which runs in tandem with the evolution of battery capability. Technology, or lack of it, still holds back the complete abandonment of diesel driven yachts fitted with LPG gas cooking facilities. The size and weight of a battery needed to provide the power equivalent to that provided by diesel would be five times greater than the amount of diesel stored on board. Of course, the hybrid approach is strongly in use now with ships, cars and even aeroplanes, taking advantage of a technology which has been around for many decades.
Like these giant industries, the leisure boating sector is moving in the right direction, yet all the while more slowly than the automotive industry. Electric power connections don’t like the harsh saltwater environment and developing a reliable product involves a great deal of investment.
But advances are nevertheless being made. “In the past three or four years we have seen onboard electrical capacity increase significantly due to the use of lithium batteries,” explains Olingschlaeger. “This has enabled us to really start to look at the alternatives to using LPG gas in the galley.”
Lithium marine batteries are smaller and becoming less expensive now to the point that they are more cost effective, while also lasting a great deal longer than conventional lead acid batteries. Many new-build yachts are leaving the factory equipped with powerful banks of lithium batteries.
Using electricity in the galley of a cruising yacht is thus becoming a much greater reality and a much more comfortable and efficient way of cooking on board. There is none of the condensation of the water vapour released by gas, nor does the heat disappear into the atmosphere. Electric induction cooking transfers energy directly to the pan on the hob and to the food. As well as the practical implications of not needing to renew gas bottles regularly, electricity is much safer and the flat hob is much easier to clean.
GN Espace is a UK-based specialist galley company, whose innovative marine cooker designs and integrated systems are chosen by the world’s leading yacht builders as original equipment for their galleys. The company offers every solution in yacht galley equipment, superyacht galleys and commercial galleys.
With a choice of Electric, Induction or traditional LPG Gas, GN Espace cookers deliver ‘Home from Home’ no compromise domestic style cooking capabilities on board.
GN Espace also partners Promart, the UK’s leading provider of commercial land-based and offshore marine foodservice solutions, to focus on bespoke superyacht galleys and the galley and food dispensing needs on commercial passenger, naval vessels and offshore installations. All of the galley equipment is designed and supplied for marine use and there is a wide range of SOLAS commercial specification equipment to choose from.
The company was founded in 2007 by Ralph Olingschlaeger and Julian Kimberley with the simple aim of creating the best yacht galley equipment available. Ralph has worked for many years in the domestic appliance industry while Julian trained as a chef with Trusthouse-Forte before establishing and managing his own chain of restaurants. Both are keen sailors.