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Torque Marine: start-up company on course with new ship propulsion system

Less fuel, more safety – diesel-electric prototype tested on inland waterway vessel “Enok”

Torque Marine IPS GmbH & Co. KG is launching a new drive technology for ships on the market. The test runs with the converted “Enok” on the Elbe off Glückstadt have been completed. On August 18, the partners Claus-D. Christophel (Hamburg) and Hans Helmut Schramm (Brunsbüttel) presented the prototype of their diesel-electric torque drive in Hamburg.

Glückstadt/Brunsbüttel/Hamburg – The idea of developing a diesel-electric ship propulsion system is not new. In order to reduce fuel consumption and thus also emissions, the shipbuilding research institute in Duisburg began working on this topic years ago on behalf of the Federal Ministry for the Environment. However, as the conventional diesel-electric drive was unable to meet practical requirements such as weight and volume reduction, new options had to be explored. “That never let go of me,” says Claus-D. Christophel. The solution is a completely new drive concept that can be tested as a system on the test bench in all functions, certified and approved by the classification authority before installation on board. The torque drive system consists of a motor, generator set, switchgear with inverter, bridge drive control and an optional Zero Emission System (ZES).

A partner for the implementation of the revolutionary drive technology was quickly found. Together with Hans Helmut Schramm from Brunsbüttel, Claus-D. Christophel founded Torque Marine IPS Innovative Propulsion Systeme GmbH & Co. The entrepreneurs have invested three million euros in the ambitious project – without using any subsidies. The three-year project was scientifically supported by shipbuilding experts from Duisburg and the Technical University (TU) in Hamburg-Harburg. The conversion management of the prototype was carried out by NavConsult from Brunsbüttel on the Gebr. Friedrich shipyard in Kiel.

Marine diesel engines, whose power is transmitted to the shaft via a gearbox, are a thing of the past at Torque Marine. The start-up company relies on the torque drive system, a sophisticated direct drive consisting of diesel generators and electronic converters. The big advantage: The two-shaft drive system can be operated in minimum mode with a diesel generator of lower output. To develop more power, the other generators are switched on continuously as required. This switching on and off takes place without the usual synchronization of the generators. Additional power is available in six seconds.

The results of the test drives have exceeded the expectations of the experts. Driving a ship’s propeller at 20 revolutions per minute is not possible with conventional diesel engines. “Even as a prototype, the overall concept is amazing,” says Dipl.-Ing. Hartmut Dobinsky, who worked for the Federal Waterways Engineering and Research Institute. Even before the presentation, delegations from Sweden and Bangladesh expressed interest.

“The effectiveness of the new drive is simply priceless,” says Schramm. The Brunsbüttel-based company wants to prove that the technology is also suitable for tractors with two new buildings costing 6.5 million euros. With the floating powerhouses, which are constantly on the move but only have to operate at full power for a few hours at a time, the additional investment pays for itself after just three years.

The new system not only proves to be economical, but also contributes to climate protection by reducing fuel costs by up to twenty percent. And this at a time when the emission standards for sulphur and nitrogen dioxide have just been tightened. The captain can bring the ship’s propeller to a halt within five seconds. “It’s a whole new world,” says Schramm. “Every second that we can react faster brings more safety.” Captain Rudi Koopmans, who until the sale of the “Enok” to Torque Marine was the owner of the old diesel engines for 14 years and is now an employee on the bridge, can only confirm this. “The ship is much easier to sail,” says the 64-year-old Dutchman. “The power of the wave is infinitely variable.”

With a partner, Managing Director Claus-D. Christophel and Hans Helmut Schramm make Torque Marine marketable worldwide. From September, the entrepreneurs are planning a bidding process to acquire an additional shareholder. “We provided the risk capital during the research and development phase,” says Schramm. In the short term, he expects up to 25 new jobs to be created at the shipping service provider. In the long term, Torque Marine has the potential to become one of the world’s leading suppliers of diesel-electric drive technology.

The possible applications of drive technology with High Torque Power Drive (HTP) for inland waterway vessels with a power requirement of 250 to 4500 hp are almost endless, says Christophel. The modular system is also suitable for alternative energy sources. For newbuildings, Torque Marine has acquired the plans for a newly designed hull form and developed them further with the Flensburg engineering office for ship technology of Ingo Schlüter. However, the “Enok” example also shows that old ships can be converted. The federal government is providing financial support for the conversion of propulsion and power generation systems, as Torque Marine’s technology meets all legal requirements for energy efficiency, emission limits and noise protection requirements.

Torque Marine IPS GmbH & Co. KG
Claus-D. Christophel
Georgswerder Bogen 7
21109 Hamburg
Mobile: + 49 172 415 90 20

Torque Marine IPS Innovative Propulsion Systeme GmbH & Co. KG, based in Hamburg, was founded in June 2008 with the aim of developing a diesel-electric ship propulsion system. The shareholders of the start-up company are Claus-D. Christophel (Hamburg) and Hans Helmut Schramm (Brunsbüttel). Both have been active in the maritime industry for many years: Until the sale to the Finnish Wärtsilä Group in 2008, Claus-D. Christophel is the managing partner of CDC Mess- und Regeltechnik GmbH, which he founded in 1974. Hans Helmut Schramm has been the owner and managing director of Hans Schramm & Sohn GmbH & Co. KG for twelve years. The Schramm Group includes Brunsbüttel Ports GmbH, the operator of the Elbe port in Brunsbüttel.

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