BEP CZone seen live, more coming
I wrote about BEP’s CZone distributed power last April, but didn’t get to see it live until I got a ride aboard Simrad’s demo boat during the Fort Lauderdale show. Isn’t it neat that the control screen can show you the amperage flowing through a specific circuit (and apparently detect a fault)? And if it’s on an MFD, couldn’t valuable details like that also be on apps pads and phones like I recently saw live with Maretron’s N2KView? In April I also wrote about what a difficult niche distributed power is, but I still think the magic of digital switching is one of the most interesting frontiers in marine electronics. And that we’re going to hear a lot more about it in 2011. BEP, for instance, made a series of announcements during METS…
First up is new AC Control and Output interfaces, with features like automatic load shedding. (Because it’s a lot harder to protect and switch an AC circuit with a MOSFET, I think BEP is using solenoids and mechanical circuit breakers, like Octoplex and others do.) The company also announced an integration partnership with Victron, though the release is not specific about what that means. CZone uses NMEA 2000 to distribute monitoring data and control commands; will Victron adapt to N2K or interface its charger/inverters and other gear some other way? At any rate, it will soon be possible to see the results on new CZone 8- and 10-inch touchscreen monitors like the one below. BEP also announced that its original Simrad NSE integration partnership will be extended to the NSO blackbox system and to the B&G Zeus.
Meanwhile, I understand that NMEA’s working group on power-related NMEA 2000 PGNs is moving closer to the point where a lot of this stuff can be done with a mixture of gear from manufacturers who may not be special partners. In fact, the group is considering using Gizmo as a test platform; of course I’m intrigued about the possibilities but also apprehensive about tearing up my dear boat’s conventional circuit breaker system. More to come, when possible.
Please… let the products come out faster, standardize and move downmarket quickly! I would love to replace the electrical systems on my 26 year old Passport 40 with a distributed power solution but the cost is still high and the reliability hasn’t been proven (on boats). All I know is that I’m sick of flipping on the autopilot switch so I can access my Barometer, and cabin lights port so my forward instrument cluster turns on. But… I’m not going to homerun cables from our panel through our “built like a tank” Taiwanese boat so I have to deal with jacking into an existing circuit.
I started pricing out a Mastervolt system, but as I started adding up the cost of each piece and the number of pieces needed I realized it’s still a bleeding edge technology (once again, for boats).
I’d jump at an offer to use my boat as a testbed for the technology and I don’t even have a good reason for it. I would think that, with all of the different devices you have, this type of system would be perfect i.e. All Raymarine is one circuit, all Garmin is another… or all chartplotters, or even 200 individual “switches” – one for each piece of equipment on board. The possibilities are endless.
If you are not sure about using Gizmo you can use my boat as a test bed. I think you can see by the number of quick volunteers how frustrated we all are with conventional electrical panels. I also have a Taiwanese, Tashing built boat with a rats nest of wire home run from every device to the panel. When you have so much wire and most is unlabeled it gets massively confusing and time consuming to work with or troubleshoot. Since I already have a NMEA 2000 backbone installed I would be most interested in a distributive systems that take advantage of N2K.
If we use an already installed N2K network doesn’t this bring down cost of making the conversion on older boats? Will the new distributed power systems be aimed at mostly new boat manufacturers or are they equally interested in the conversion market for older vessels?
As an end user, I’m trying to simplify traditional systems onboard and NMEA 2000 has done that for me. The electrical system is still a frustrating mess to work with so the development of distributive power is a welcome idea.
Thanks, Chris and Richard. I’m sure there are some manufacturers who are happy to hear that there’s some interest in retrofitting distributed power. New builds certainly made sense as the place to start, but that business has been stressed more than many. Meanwhile, Gizmo is only slightly untypical of a huge number of mid-sized boats that have gotten confusingly crammed with electrical systems and still aren’t enjoying the benefits of digital switching. It’s going to take me a while to inventory the boat’s current system and then to see what NMEA proposes, but I guess I’m game, and the timing is right.
Interesting: Actuant — parent to BEP (and also Marinco) — just bought Mastervolt, which is also developing a marine distributed power system:
Hi, there was another N2K distributed power system at Mets called EmpirBus NXT. Saw compact out with a lot of features. Is there anyone who has used this system?