Propulsion 2011: Pod parade marches on

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Systems continue to evolve, and the inboard, sterndrive and outboard segments haven't been idle either


The push to make powerboat operation easier and more efficient continues in the propulsion segment, with manufacturers developing pod-drive and joystick-control systems and others fine-  tuning existing products.

Last fall, ZF Marine and SeaVee introduced what they say is the first recreational powerboat - a 34-foot center console - with single-pod propulsion. Now ZF expects to bring its single-pod technology to a much larger sportfishing boat built by Caison Yachts of North Carolina.

"She's going to be 52 feet with a single Caterpillar C18, 1,150-hp diesel coupled to the ZF pod drive with the integrated bow thruster," says Caison Yachts founder and president Donnie Caison. "I'm a firm believer in the future of pod drives."

The boat, being built for a North Carolina client, should be completed for the 2012 Miami International Boat Show, Caison says. Preliminary calculations show the sportfisherman burning 36 gallons an hour at 30 knots, says Caison, who has built two twin-pod boats, a 49- and a 40-footer.

"I have a [prop-and-shaft 55-foot Caison] with twin C18s that burns 75 gallons per hour at 31 knots," he says. "So you're talking about an impressive fuel-  economy improvement."


Yanmar America will bring to market a sterndrive package with joystick capability. "It's our joystick technology with our programming and ECUs," says Tom Watson, manager of the marine engine division. The joystick is part of Yanmar's new Vessel Control System, which will be linked to a new diesel - the 8LV - a 4.5-liter twin turbo V-8 available in 320- or 370-hp configurations.

The engine can be used in sterndrive or inboard applications and Yanmar will link it to the company's ZT370 sterndrive. The 370-hp diesel with ZT370 drive becomes Yanmar's highest-horsepower I/O package, Watson says.


The Vessel Control System consists of a joystick, instrumentation and throttle controls and can be used in pod-drive and sterndrive setups, Watson says.

"The market wants easier control systems that reduce the operating anxiety of bigger boats so that everyone can feel more comfortable on the water and have more fun on the water," he says. "As an industry, propulsion suppliers have to deliver a solution for these people. There are a lot of people that don't use this technology, but it is becoming more of a mainstream requirement and most manufacturers have that capability to provide this kind of solution."

Yanmar expects the 8LV and the Vessel Control System to be available in the third quarter of this year for the 2012 model year.

Volvo Penta

Volvo Penta, the first manufacturer to offer a pod-drive system with joystick control, has improved its products. The company's IPS I, II and III can be installed in boats from 35 to 110 feet, and the engine manufacturer now has an updated joystick and joystick controls, says Bob Apple, Volvo Penta North America senior vice president of sales and marketing.

"We've updated it ergonomically and placed a number of buttons and features right on the controls so whoever is piloting the boat has everything right there at their fingertips without having to jump to different screens," Apple says. "It's a nice example of making the boating experience easier. Ergonomically, it's refined and feels more comfortable and fits better in the hand."

The control base of the joystick, the Volvo Penta Joystick Plus, now includes low-speed and cruise-  control buttons. "The cruise-control feature was already available, but it was a little more difficult to get to," Apple says. Another button allows the skipper to switch from twin- to single-lever control. With cruise control, the helmsman can increase or decrease       engine rpm in increments of 50, Apple says.


Cruise control is also available on the Volvo Penta sterndrive joystick system, which features a new power-assist trim that automatically adjusts the angle of the drive to its most efficient position, Apple says. "If you don't want to mess with the angle of the drive, just turn this on and it takes care of business for you," Apple says.

From an application standpoint, he says, Volvo Penta's IPS now can be engineered and installed in displacement yachts.

"All of our IPS product previously had been for planing boats," Apple says. "This development will allow the popular trawlers out there to be fitted with IPS because we are seeing demand for that."


Cummins MerCruiser Diesel, whose Zeus pod system is offered on the Grand Banks 41 Heritage EU, is also moving further into the trawler market, says Alex Watts, the company's marketing and strategy director. "Growth in the trawler and sportfish markets is important to us," Watts says. "These two types of vessels have common needs that Zeus can take care of."

The maneuverability that Zeus delivers will help trawler and sportfish owners control their boats around the dock, in close quarters or in fishing situations, Watts says. And Zeus will allow more owners to avoid hiring a captain. "Most people hire a captain out of necessity, and Zeus allows them to operate the boat on their own," he says.

Zeus' station-keeping feature, called Sky Hook, will be valuable for skippers waiting for bridge openings.

Cummins MerCruiser Diesel also is making strides outside the pod world. Volkswagen will manufacture and marinize diesels from 40 to 350 hp for CMD under an agreement the companies reached last summer. Environmental regulations on the horizon in the United States and Europe drove Cummins MerCruiser Diesel to re-evaluate its choice of manufacturer for smaller diesels, says David Dwight, Cummins MerCruiser Diesel vice president of global sales, marketing and integration.

Volkswagen-manufactured products will supplant a subset of CMD's Quantum Series, the QSD. Volkswagen will manufacture and marinize 1.9-, 2.5-, 3.0- and 4.2-liter diesels for CMD at its plant in Salzgitter, Germany. The 1.9 is an inline 4-cylinder engine with a 40- to 75-hp rating; the 2.5, an inline 5-cylinder engine, has a rating of 55 to 165 hp; the 3.0-liter V-6 is rated from 225 to 265 hp; and the 4.2-liter V-8 carries a 350-hp rating.

John Deere

John Deere Power Systems planned to introduce the PowerTech 6090AFM75, a 425-hp diesel, at this year's Miami International Boat Show. The 9-liter, 6-cylinder turbocharged engine will provide high horsepower and durable performance for propulsion and genset applications, according to the company.


In the sterndrive segment, Mercury Marine in January introduced the 4.3-liter MPI ECT (Multi-Port Injection, Emissions Control Technology). "This technology is basically a catalyst and some additional components that will help the engine reduce the level of emissions," MerCruiser brand director Facundo Onni says.

The 4.3 MPI ECT - a 220-hp V-6 gas power plant with a GM base engine - is compatible with Alpha and Bravo drives. It is the seventh catalyzed engine in the MerCruiser sterndrive lineup, which is composed of engines from 135 to 430 hp. They are the 3.0 MPI ECT, 5.0 MPI ECT, 350 MAG ECT, 377 MAG ECT, 8.2 MAG ECT and 8.2 MAG H.O. ECT.

Honda, Suzuki

In the outboard segment, Honda in early February said it will unveil a 250-hp 4-stroke. Its highest-horsepower 4-stroke currently is the BF225, a 3.4-liter V-6. The BF250 will be a new 3.6-liter engine, not a redesign of the BF225, says Sara Pines, Honda's Southeast regional manager of public relations.

"We expect best-in-class fuel economy and performance through a variety of Honda-exclusive technologies such as VTEC and Lean Burn Control," says Pines.

Suzuki has added a feature to its DF300 4-stroke that allows engines with conventional-rotation drives to be converted to counter-rotating drives, says Larry Vandiver, Suzuki marketing director. "For the first time that I am aware of, an outboard ... can be a counter-rotation or a regular-rotation [engine] with a change of an electronic device," he says. "This means that dealers don't have to look at heavy stocks of inventory or inventory that becomes mismatched. It controls inventory, and inventory control is a major factor right now."

Also new for Suzuki will be an electronic trolling system for the DF300. "Now you can control the troll speed with a flip of a switch from idle to 1,200 rpm at 50-rpm intervals," Vandiver says. "We're looking to put a system together where [boaters] don't have to use small kicker motors or a second motor."

This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue.


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