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Will diesel power see growth?

Iíve been reading lately about the increasing speculation that high gasoline prices, coupled with a growing recognition that more ethanol production will breed other problems (see Dealer Outlook from August 23, 2007), will lead to a surge in diesel power in our nation.

As an example, Mercedes has said it will introduce ďcleanĒ diesel sedans and SUVís in anticipation that American drivers will begin to mirror the acceptance by Europeans of diesel powered cars. Today, less than 4 percent of American vehicles are diesel-powered and those are mostly light trucks. That contrasts with the fact that more than 50 percent of the cars sold in Europe are diesel.

Sure, itís true right now that this speculation focuses exclusively on diesel cars and SUVís, not marine power. But it raises an interesting possibility that diesel power may soon impact boating in at least two ways.

First, diesel power may be the way SUVís and light trucks could survive the misguided Congressional push to significantly increase CAF… standards. After all, there is ďa growing sense within the auto and oil industries that increasing numbers of U.S. cars and light trucks will run on diesel, because they get better fuel economy than those using gasoline,” said a recent Wall Street Journal article. So, while we as an industry have a legitimate fear that increased CAF… standards will wipe out vehicles that can safely tow our boats, perhaps the diesel engine will be the equalizer.

Second, it raises an interesting possibility that consumer demand will increase for diesel engines in boats now only offered with gas power as a natural extension of the growth and recognition of the better mileage offered by diesel-powered cars. While diesel didnít previously have any success in the small boat market, past results are not an indicator of future performance, as they say. Itís certainly an interesting possibility.

Thatís how I see it, how about you?


8 comments on “Will diesel power see growth?

  1. Bryon Kass

    Have you seen Volvo Penta’s lineup? Their D3 series is up to 190hp and under 600# which can replace most SB gas applications with ease. I noticed several boats at recent shows down to 23′ with either Volvo or Cummins Mercruiser diesels. With the high cost of outboards diesel looks like the best choice. For the repower market it also makes sense. I sold a pair of D3-160 for a 28′ repower 2yrs ago with great results. The boat used half the fuel and attained the same top speed as the prior SB Fords. VW within the past year has also entered the US market with 4,5, and V6 diesels. Their engines like the Volvo are light weight high rpm suitable for gas repower. Long gone are the days of heavy slow diesel boats with these new engines and others from Yanmar, Iveco etc. For a real radical change I repowered a 28′ twin gas boat to single diesel. This project boat ended up lighter and within 4mph top speed using 1/3 the fuel of the twin V8s this 6 cyl Cummins replaced. With the reliability of diesels so much higher than gas more will opt to buy single diesel instead of twins for a lighter and sometimes faster boats. Just look at what Mainship and Albin have been building.

  2. Larry Innis

    One of the solutions being offered to the CAFE problem being forced on us by Congress that is being discussed in DC is for auto manufacturers to replace the gas engine in today’s SUVs and pick up trucks with diesel. I agree with Norm that we will see increased usage of the diesel engine in cars, trucks and SUVs, and it may roll over into recreational boating, as fewer gasoline engines are researched and produced for the auto industry.

  3. Bill LIndsey

    Norm’s right on the mark; it’s only a matter of time before diesel power becomes as commonplace here in the US as it is in Europe. The new common-rail designs are amazingly smooth and efficient. It seems to be primarily a cost thing now that has us hooked on gas power, but for those looking to keep the boat for a while, diesel is clearly the way to go. That being said, I am not expecting Yamaha to come out with a diesel version of my boat’s F225 any time soon!

  4. Bob

    If you have not driven the new Mercedes diesel, you really don’t know what you’re missing.
    Picture this: a 3.0 ltr V6, producing 215 HP, and 398 ft. pds. torque.
    I think, when you consider that a boat is going ‘uphill’ all day, it would be an ideal power plant for a boat, as well as the tow vehicle.
    Go see for yourself.

  5. Jack Hern

    I feel that corn fuel (ethanol) and diesel power are not efficient for the marine industry.
    Both come at a higher cost vs gas powered boats which represent 90% of the industry units.
    For most of the boats the diesel will be heavy & costly while the issues of ethanol from a
    maintenance factor, are a major concern.
    If Edison had been of this philosophy he would have invented a bigger candle!!!
    My major concern for the future is affordability of boating as a recreational family opportunity.

  6. Ron Longman

    The biggest concern should be the intorduction of E-diesel, which will not promote a significant savings in fuel consumption, let alone address the complication and problems of fuel tank material.

    Yes it will do great things for the small to medium size boat market, (25′ to 35″) but the industry cannot afford to let the E-diesel process come to fruition.

  7. Spike Haible

    Wow, a “misguided push to increase CAFE standards”? When are we going to learn to live within our energy and environmental limits and use technology to create a cleaner, energy mizerly future? Will we do it on our own? Not. Congress is right to respond in to our looming energy and environmental limits by pushing us (the consumer and the manufacturer) to get real about what’s happening and take the next step. CAFE standards can be met without the Big Three constantly crying in front of the cameras, and big oil will survive as long as there’s oil to be extracted. Funny that GM, when it was on the ropes over the past few years, actually had its only profit center in small cars in China!!? Think about that. Put Americans and American ingenuity to work making vehicles that unhook us as much as possible from the oil spigot and insanity of the Middle East. If we didn’t need their oil we wouldn’t we be sending our soldiers (and the billions needed here at home) to be wasted in the decrepit deserts of Iraq? Are we so vain that we can only think about how big a vehicle we need to pull our big boats? I love boats, boating, and my old and mizerly diesel trawler-don’t get me wrong, but I also recognize the price it exacts from this precious and beautiful world we live on.

  8. Capt. John Page Williams

    Spike speaks for me too as far as what our vision for the future should be, but so do Larry Innis, Bill Lindsay, and Bob. I”ve tested a bunch of boats with Volvo, Cummins, and Yanmar common-rail, electronic diesels, and I’ve had some experience with the Mercedes Bluetec Diesel to which Bob refers, in an E-body sedan. Yes, the torque and acceleration are amazing, the engine is quiet, and real-world mileage is 26 mpg in the city, 36 on the higheway. Every time I’ve had the opportunity to test comparable boats with diesel and four-stroke outboards, the diesels have won hands-down in efficiency, even though the OBs are wonderful in their own right. There are still some diesel air emissions issues to work out, though, especially NOx, which causes not only air pollution but nitrogen pollution in our waterways. We still have some problems to solve, but new-generation diesels look to be part of the solution, both in towing our boats and in operating them.

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