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Ask the Experts | Take Command of Fuel Efficiency


  • Ask the Experts | Take Command of Fuel Efficiency

    Gasoline is the fuel of choice for the vast majority of recreational powerboats; be they outboard or stern drive powered, small utility boat or family cruiser. Over the past five years, fuel prices have more than doubled and continue to fluctuate between three and four dollars a gallon. In many locations, gasoline is even more expensive for 'marine' gas purchased on the water. Today's drivers and boaters are constantly striving to wring more miles from each gallon.

    Manufacturers are working harder all the time to offer more fuel-efficient engines for boats, but the challenge is a bit more daunting than it is with road vehicles. Pushing a boat hull through the water requires considerably more power than rolling a car over a smooth roadway. Obviously, the engine dynamics and power requirements for a boat are more complex, but boat and engine manufacturers have been finding ingenious ways to make recreational boats burn less fuel.

    That said, as a boat owner you can exercise more control over the amount of fuel you use than you might think. No, we're not talking about using your boat less, just operating it more efficiently. All you need are a few critical bits of information while running your boat. At least two engine manufacturers are now providing the tools that provide this information can help you to make smarter operating decisions.

    Four-stroke outboard engine technology is on the cutting edge of fuel efficiency. Most outboard manufacturers offer four stroke/four cycle engines in their lines. Engineers understand the importance of providing critical engine information to you while you are operating your boat. It is this information that makes it possible to run it farther on less gasoline, thus reducing operating expenses and extending your boating enjoyment.

    From Yamaha, the tools they developed for providing this information are the Command Link® and Command Link Plus® engine gauge systems.

    The same gauges that tell you engine RPM and vessel speed can also provide continuous, highly accurate fuel consumption data as you run the boat. With this information, you can adjust engine RPM to squeeze the most nautical miles out of each gallon of fuel burned.

    On many Yamaha outboards an Electronic Control Module (ECM) is essentially the engine's computer brain. "The ECM on Yamaha outboards continuously calculates exactly how much fuel is being consumed using an 'injector-on-time' system," according to David Meeler, Yamaha Marine Group Product Information Manager. "The ECM, through a vast array of sensors, is responsible for metering just the right amount of fuel for any given throttle setting and engine speed. It accounts for all facets of performance-things like in-gear idle, hard acceleration, cruising in the mid-range, or running on the pins. The ECM then relays the data regarding the amount of fuel that passes through the electronic fuel injectors in real time to our Command Link engine monitoring systems. The process is extremely accurate."

    To be that accurate it takes some owner (you) input. You enter in the size of your boat's fuel tank in gallons and as you run the boat, the system will calculate how many miles are left in the tank until it is empty.

    Fuel use info is displayed to the operator by the Command Link or Command Link Plus gauge system as fuel flow in gallons-per-hour (GPH). The Yamaha system incorporates the vessel's speed from its electronic speed sensor and that is used to provide the you with continuous, exact fuel economy readings in MPG at the current speed. So how does this help you save fuel? Most boats are operated at cruising speed a majority of the time, yet most boat owners have no idea what the most economical cruising speed is for their vessel - the 'sweet spot' where the boat is achieving the greatest distance per gallon burned. Every hull and engine combination varies and additional factors affecting fuel economy include the weight the boat is carrying (fuel on board, number of passengers, gear, etc.) and sea conditions. Without a continuous MPG reading, you have to guess where the sweet spot is and that is a very difficult assumption to get right. Some boat owners are surprised to find that their boats actually operated more efficiently at speeds faster than they estimated. Others realize that if they trimmed a few hundred RPM off their cruising speed, they could reduce fuel consumption by a significant margin. The ultimate telltale for finding the sweet spot for your vessel is that all-important continuous MPG readout displayed by the Yamaha Command Link and Command Link Plus systems at the helm.

    The fuel monitoring system from Mercury Marine is incorporated into their SmartCraft/MercMonitor and VesselView instrument systems.

    Fuel flow is monitored and indicated for each system. Through the VesselView Eco mode, the system recommends engine RPM and trim for optimum fuel efficiency with up to 20% improvement in fuel efficiency over a like boat and engine without the system. It can incorporate the full suite of systems integration from boat function, navigation, cruise control, generator function and other operating systems.

    Any outboard that provides this critical information accurately puts you in the driver's seat when it comes to fuel economy.

    For more information on the Yamaha instruments just click on http://www.yamahaoutboards.com/rigging/gauges. For information on the Mercury lines of instruments to help you monitor and improve your engine's fuel economy, click to http://www.mercurymarine.com/gauges-and-controls/gauges-and-displays/digital/vesselview/.
    Last edited by iboats.com; August 13th, 2014, 04:13 PM.
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