Outboard Innovation from BoatingIndustry.com
The following is an excerpt from BoatingIndustry.com the full article in its entirety can be found here: http://bit.ly/1FRRnMb
The past year has seen a number of new outboard products entering the market. Manufacturers want to provide existing consumers with the option to repower or add power to their vessels, which is an unsurprising emphasis considering that nearly half, or 7.9 million, of recreational boats in use are outboard-power motor boats, according to our 2014 Market Data Book.
We spoke with five outboard engine manufacturers to discuss what motivated their new products and the reasoning behind the technologies in which they chose to invest.
When Evinrude looked at its current E-TEC engines, as well as other direct injection two-cycle engines within the industry, the company found that the products were all originally carbureted engines that were converted to direct injection.
“We have a really good lineup of E-TEC engines today but … we were limited in what we could accomplish because we were using blocks that had been around, in some cases, for several decades,” said Jason Eckman, product marketing manager of the marine propulsion systems division at BRP.
With the new E-TEC G2 model, Evinrude developed direct injection technology from the ground up. The product development team at Evinrude spent years learning about direct injection technology and found that using older block technology inhibited their design goals.
Eckman says the new E-TEC G2 engine provides customers a 15 percent improvement in fuel economy, 20 percent more torque and 75 percent fewer emissions. Advancements in computer modeling allowed the company to conduct simulation ahead of prototype creation. The G2 also won a MIBS innovation award for outboard engines.
“It all comes down to perfecting the combustion inside that cylinder. When you do that right … fuel economy, power and emissions are the byproduct,” said Eckman. “A lot of the energy in the project was focused on designing an engine block that allowed for good combustion.”
Eckman compared a two-cycle engine to a musical instrument: every component affects the other. The intake/air flowing into the cylinder, the cylinder head and the fuel and air mixture, the location of the fuel injector and the exhaust manifold as the exhaust is flowing out of the cylinder.
“You have the get all of those things right in order to have good combustion. It’s never just one element,” said Eckman. “You have to have all the parts well-tuned.”
Evinrude also added fully-integrated digital controls to the G2 engines because it improves reliability, said Eckman. Removing mechanical linkages from prior generations reduces routine servicing on the engines as the digital controls do not require as much adjustment, and it improves the boater experience by providing smooth shift and throttle. Digital controls also allowed Evinrude to integrate its I-Trim function, which allows the engine to trim itself once the customer turns it on. Eckman says this was originally targeted at new boaters but has received praise from existing customers as well.
Eckman says customers have also told Evinrude that the clean rigging of the engine is a huge improvement and that they hope to see it used on other platforms. All of the hoses for steering, battery cables, fuel lines and more in the G2 engine run through a single rigging tube, which does not move when the engine is turned. Eckman says this provides a cleaner back of the boat and increased space, in some cases as much as two feet.
“I’ve heard a lot of consumers say, when they see it for the first time,” Eckman said, “‘Of course, why aren’t they all that way?’”
Additionally, in order to meet consumer expectations, Evinrude focused on customization with the G2 engine. Eckman said that in many cases, customers were paying $3,000 per engine to add a custom paint job to integrate the engine with the boat.
“Each of the brands have always had their brand colors … but consumers don’t care about that. That’s almost more of an industry thing. We’ve seen year after year, especially in the saltwater markets, that when a customer is paying $500,000-plus for a boat, it’s not acceptable for the engine not to match the boat,” said Eckman.
The G2 engine thus comes with five side, top and front panel color options and 14 accent color choices.
“Why wouldn’t everybody want to have that same feature that the guy buying [an expensive] boat would? By designing the engine so that it’s easily customized, we brought that feature down to a level that anybody can afford,” said Eckman. “When you ask people how important the style of their engine is, they will often tell you that it doesn’t matter at all. They talk about reliability, fuel economy and performance, but design certainly plays an aspect in all of our lives and it’s sometimes hard to quantify.”
One challenge Evinrude chose to undertake was extending its warranty, which Eckman says the company was able to accomplish by increasing the size of the water pump and adding a gear oil reservoir bottle. The reservoir bottle allows customers to ensure the quality and quantity of gear oil in the gear case is top-notch, according to Eckman, and these features allowed Evinrude to guarantee a five-year, 500-hour no-dealer scheduled maintenance interval.
“That’s also core to the technology. Because it’s a two-cycle engine, it doesn’t need an oil change. If you’ve ever had your boat hauled out of the marina just to have an oil change done, and in many cases you’re spending $1,000 or more for the maintenance, that’s something that we know is not supporting the consumer experience and we wanted to improve that,” said Eckman.
Eckman says it was a key decision to reinvest in two-cycle technology because Evinrude believes it is better for the consumer, despite how different it is from the four-stroke models in which most of the outboard segment has invested.
“While BRP makes a lot of four-stroke motors, they typically go on vehicles that have a transmission, like an ATV or even on a Sea-Doo watercraft with the jet pump, the difference being with the transmission or the jet pump. A four-cycle engine is able to get up to the peak RPM quickly either through the transmission or the slipping of the jet pump,” said Eckman. “With an outboard, you have a propeller, which is basically like having one gear in your car. In order to get to the peak horsepower, you need a lot of torque. Nothing makes better torque than a two-cycle engine because you’re getting combustion with each rotation of the crank shot.”