Intrepid Powerboats will display one of its 32-foot center consoles with a new natural gas/gasoline hybrid propulsion system at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
The system was developed by the Apex, N.C., company Blue Gas Marine. “We can use any gas — hydrogen, propane and natural gas — to power any internal combustion engine,” Blue Gas Marine CEO and founder Miguel Guerreiro said. “Natural gas is the most widely available gaseous fuel around the world, so we developed our technology specially for natural gas.”
Guerreiro and Intrepid president Ken Clinton met in February at the Miami International Boat Show.
“He told me about the system, and I checked his references and saw he has surrounded himself with some very qualified people,” Clinton said. “I was impressed. This is a legitimate fuel alternative, and there are so many benefits that come with this system that I don’t see why it wouldn’t take off.”
Intrepid has retrofitted a 2013 Intrepid 327 CC powered with twin Mercury 300-hp Verado 4-strokes. “I wanted to go through with this in the most challenging situation — and that would be taking an existing boat and adding the hybrid technology without removing or changing the existing fuel system,” Clinton said. “It would be much easier to build a new one from scratch.”
The Intrepid can operate on natural gas or as a hybrid that carries natural gas and a traditional fuel, such as gasoline. The driver can switch between the two fuels on demand and at any speed with the press of a button.
Blue Gas Marine is developing a network to distribute the natural gas fuel to boaters, ensuring that it will be readily available. Boaters can even fill up at home or from any building equipped with natural gas, Guerreiro said.
The system consists of an electronic fuel injection unit for natural gas that is added to the existing engine; natural gas high-pressure lines; pressure gauges, safety devices and devices to control the flow of gas to the injection system; and a helm control that allows for switching between the two fuels.
Guerreiro said natural gas is 50 to 70 percent less expensive than gasoline, on average, and its performance is comparable. He said a few boat companies were interested in becoming the first to try out the hybrid system, but Blue Gas Marine chose Intrepid because of its track record as an innovative company.
And that innovation is now delving into the world of alternative fuels for propulsion, Clinton said.
“I am the guy who installed four 557-hp outboards on a boat because a customer wanted them,” Clinton said. “So we owe it to everyone to look at the green avenues. Once we saw benefits, not only the fuel economy, but the cleanliness of the system, I was sold on it.”