Miami Yacht Club

Voltsafe aims to revolutionize shore power connectivity

Voltsafe aims to revolutionize shore power connectivity

Recently, I participated in judging the NMMA’s Innovation Awards at IBEX. Participating in the awards affords me a sneak peek at new products and technology. This year’s IBEX was full of interesting and compelling new products. But, if I had to pick one product that I’m most excited about, VoltSafe’s managed shore power system is a strong contender. Let’s take a look at the system and why I’m excited about it.

When I first read VoltSafe’s submission materials for the innovation awards, I immediately figured it was a slightly different take on what SmartPlug has offered for quite some time. But, as indicated by VoltSafe’s innovation award win for electrical systems, there’s a lot more to their solution than a change of connectors.

Safety

Voltsafe aims to revolutionize shore power connectivity

You may be thinking that the cord above looks an awful lot like the familiar 30 amp shore power cords. It turns out, you’d be right. What you see above is an ordinary 30 amp shore power cord with a small, puck-like magnetic adapter attached.

That cord end, with the puck attached, mates to VoltSafe’s pedestal-mounted unit. The puck attaches to the pedestal via a powerful magnet. The cord easily disconnects from the pedestal with a twisting motion. But, if a boater forgets to disconnect it, 40 pounds of force pulls it cleanly off without damage to the boat or pedestal.

With current shore power connections, yanking a shore power cord apart likely means either an energized receptacle or cord, depending on where it comes apart. That same situation would be a little more concerning with VoltSafe’s flat, relatively exposed conductors on their puck and receiver. But, there’s more going on with VoltSafe’s connection than what we see traditionally. The puck and the receiver negotiate with each other to ensure electricity isn’t allowed to flow until a good connection has been made. The negotiation mirrors the process used by electric vehicles when their chargers are connected.

Voltsafe aims to revolutionize shore power connectivity

The nice big contacts combined with VoltSafe’s intelligence should all but eliminate the meltdowns we’ve likely all seen. Typically, these occur as a result of resistance at the small points of contact employed by current connections. One potential concern with those big, relatively easily accessed connections is accidental contact and shock. But, because VoltSafe is only sending power once a connection has been established, and ceasing to send power immediately if that connection is interrupted, that risk is mitigated. Also, the visible contacts mean that if there’s a problem with them, you can easily see it. That’s not the case with traditional receptacles in use today.

Voltsafe aims to revolutionize shore power connectivity
VoltSafe’s brochure includes an impressive collection of melted down connectors

VoltSafe utilizes a temperature sensor in the outlet of their unit. So, if resistance builds in the connection between the puck and receptacle or the shore power cord and the puck, the system will detect increased heat. An alert generated before the connection gets too hot provides an opportunity to fix the problem before damage occurs.

Current leakage

Boaters who have encountered newer marinas with equipment leakage circuit interrupter (ELCI) breakers probably know the issues they can cause for both boaters and marina management. ELCI breakers typically don’t display any information about how much current leakage they’re measuring. Instead, they just trip when the value goes out of range. Often, these breakers are fitted at distribution points, so tripping a breaker results in a group of boats losing power. VoltSafe’s shore power electronics monitor ELCI, among quite a few other parameters, and allow real-time viewing of the data. Plus, a marina can set the trip threshold lower on a per-slip basis than the distribution point, so that one boat with an issue doesn’t affect others.

It’s not just leakage current and outlet temperatures that VoltSafe monitors. The system also watches for over and under-voltage situations as well as over-current protection. This thorough monitoring helps reduce the risk of damage to the boat and increases the safety of those on and around it.

Centralized management

Voltsafe aims to revolutionize shore power connectivity

VoltSafe’s benefits don’t stop at safer shore power connections. Their actively managed power outlets combined with their WiFi-connected pedestal enable a new level of monitoring and management. These benefits most directly affect marina operators, but will also trickle down to individual boaters.

In a typical marina today, all pedestals remain energized all the time. Often, individual outlets are turned off by a breaker in the pedestal. Unfortunately, this approach means that visiting boats without a reservation are able to plug in and draw power. Often by a boat that arrives after the office closes and departs before it opens. VoltSafe can help with that problem by disabling pedestals for unoccupied slips.

Centralized control isn’t limited to just turning receptacles on and off. Accurately metering power consumption is a frequent pain point for marina operators. Plus, the manual collection of that data represents a staffing cost. VoltSafe’s centralized management platform will output accurate and timely consumption data.

The VoltSafe marina app allows marina staff to monitor and track the occupancy of the marina. Additionally, at a glance a marina operator can determine if any boats have come unplugged, are receiving low voltage, drawing too much current, or have any other concerns.

Slip holder’s app

Voltsafe aims to revolutionize shore power connectivity

Most of the information available to marina staff will also be available to individual slip holders, for their shore power system. Many boaters, especially those in warm weather and air conditioning-intensive climates, have experienced the sticker shock of a month-end power bill. VoltSafe can eliminate that shock by allowing boaters to see their real-time power consumption as well as cumulative monthly usage.

The app’s utility to boaters isn’t limited to just understanding the cost of the power they consume. It also alerts a slip holder of a shore power disconnect. That alone can eliminate spoiled food and flat batteries. Lastly, the app aids both the boater and the marina in tracking down low-voltage issues. It’s not unusual during periods of heavy consumption for onboard appliances to struggle with low voltage. It can be difficult to know if that’s due to onboard wiring or because the marina is supplying low voltage. VoltSafe makes that clear at a glance.

Cost

VoltSafe hasn’t finalized pricing yet. But, they do say they expect their solution, including the shore power pedestal, to be cost-competitive with traditional pedestal and outlet packages. If they’re able to achieve that price parity, I’d say that represents a pretty compelling value proposition. The additional functionality and convenience for both the marina and the boater seem compelling.

What’s next?

As soon as I saw VoltSafe’s product, I was excited to see something that would, I thought, protect the entirety of the connection from the pedestal all the way through the boat. But, then I realized that, at launch, VoltSafe addresses the connector on the pedestal, but not the connector on the boat. It turns out they made a business decision that it would be easier to drive adoption by demonstrating their value and safety to a marina operator, rather than to individual boaters. But, fear not, they plan to address the boat side of the connection soon. The boat side connector will use the same magnetic connector approach and also feature temperature monitoring.

You may have also noticed that everything shown so far is for 120-volt, 30-amp L5-30 style receptacles. VoltSafe also plans to offer 50-amp, 240-volt solutions in the near future as well. Lastly, they intend to add control of pedestal water and include the same consumption metering capabilities as they offer for electricity.


Source link

more insights