Late in 2006, boating journalists from across Australia flew to the Gold Coast for the launch of the latest Evinrude E-TEC products. It began with staff from Evinrude’s parent company, Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP), providing briefings on recent technological changes and innovations in the 2007 model range. Then it was time to experience the latest Evinrude E-TEC outboard offerings on the water. During the briefings, much was made of the four underpinnings of the E-TEC engine technology, with BRP staff claiming in their presentation that their engines are: “Easy-to-own and operate, cleaner and quieter, provide durability, quality and reliability along with power, performance and styling.” All very impressive on a whiteboard, but how do they stack up in the real world?
EASY-TO-OWN AND OPERATE
For the first 300 hours or three years of normal recreational operation, Evinrude E-TEC two-stroke outboards require no dealer-scheduled maintenance. With Evinrude E-TEC, there is no oil filter or crankcase oil to change or dispose of, no belts or chains to adjust or replace, and no valve or throttle linkage adjustments required – ever. Evinrude claims that its E-TEC engines are so well engineered and precision-built that no break-in period is required and that while some rival models require as much as ten hours of break-in time, E-TEC customers can run wideopen throttle right out of the box. Furthermore, Evinrude says that, without having to make an initial 20-hour check, E-TEC owners will be out on the water enjoying themselves instead of spending time at the dealership for service. All E-TEC models feature self-flushing cooling systems that purge the system of debris each time the throttle is applied. Evinrude suggests that all of these innovative and consumer-orientated benefits make its engines far easier and much less costly to own and operate than comparable four-strokes.
CLEANER AND QUIETER – THE E-TEC SIGNATURE SOUND
Evinrude claims that one of the benefits of the E-TEC air intake acoustically-tuned silencer design is that the intake openings are located high on the silencer cover, which prohibits any water that may find its way inside the motor cover from entering the engine. It also says that the air intake silencer has been designed with an air box that has a two-chamber, acoustic-type system that allows air to enter through the back chamber and expand into a large volume. It then contracts and moves into a front chamber before it enters the throttle body and inlet port. Evinrude reckons that this air box design is beneficial for sound reduction and ensures good power.
The company’s new idle relief system was designed to ensure smooth running, while keeping the exhaust quiet at idle. It does this by eliminating high back pressure inside the engine at low speed, and when the water level is high. Evinrude E-TEC outboards send all exhaust straight through the idle relief muffler when the boat is off plane. The exhaust sound waves enter the chamber, bounce off the wall and resonate into the chamber, where the exhaust gas flows, then go through the grillwork before exiting the engine. Evinrude claims that these innovations, plus others too numerous to list here, make the E-TEC range exceptionally quiet-running.
DURABILITY, QUALITY AND RELIABILITY
One of the many E-TEC design innovations was the introduction of less auxiliary ports through which air is allowed to enter the engine. The E-TEC motor cover has been redesigned so that there is no vacuum effect during a following sea at these ports, thus reducing water ingress. Added to this is the fact that the cover’s internal configuration has been designed to serve as a drain path. Therefore, any water which does enter will continue its momentum straight out the ports on the top sides of the cover, thus keeping the powerhead dry.
A new spark plug used in E-TEC engines provides, according to Evinrude, extended life and greater durability thanks to the use of a smaller platinum-tipped rivet rather than a pad. Evinrude was able to lengthen spark plug life expectancy to an estimated 300 hours by reducing the primary voltage from 300 to 200 volts in the ignition system, thus reducing spark plug gap erosion.
The lubrication system was designed as a compact and efficient package that uses only one oil line running from the tank to the engine, with no return line in the system. The oil system uses a pressure transducer rather than a pressure switch. This sensor is much smarter than a switch, automatically monitoring oil pressure and adjusting levels accordingly. It can quickly detect any issues in the oil line or system, which immediately puts the engine in the SAFE (Speed Adjusting Failsafe Electronics) mode, reducing engine speed to a maximum of 1200rpm. In SAFE mode, according to Evinrude, an E-TEC engine is capable of running up to five hours with no oil without damage.
POWER, PERFORMANCE & STYLING
Evinrude engineers say that the E-TEC technology provides up to double the fuel efficiency of conventional two-stroke and super-charged four-stroke engines. This increased efficiency results in an extended operating range and requires fewer fill-ups as well as lower operating costs. They also claim that E-TEC’s unique direct injection system provides increased power and better fuel consumption at all throttle settings, and makes starting fast and easy. Their claimed superior power and performance is the product of better fuel economy and lighter weight, says Evinrude. Evinrude E-TEC technology utilises ‘stratified combustion’ – a process that claims to use a highly efficient fuel injector to deliver unsurpassed fuel economy at low engine speeds.
Evinrude also says that the efficiency of the E-TEC direct injection system provides increased horsepower and torque because of its unique design. Plus, they point out that, in an E-TEC engine, there is a power stroke with every revolution of the crankshaft, as opposed to four-stroke engines whose design only provides a power stroke with every other revolution. The resultant gains in horsepower and torque are claimed to offer greater acceleration and a higher top speed. Evinrude High Output (HO) models are available with a high performance gearcase, providing increased performance for tournament anglers and high-performance boaters. Evinrude says that its E-TEC outboards are significantly lighter than competitive four-stroke outboard engines and that their lighter weight means quicker holeshots to get on plane faster and also enhances boat handling.
ON THE WATER
A wide variety of craft was made available for testing, varying in design from high-speed bass fishing platforms to cabin cruisers, some outfitted with a single engine and others with twins. There were also craft with two engines – an E-TEC and a competitor brand – for side-by-side comparisons. Overall, the E-TEC units ran strongly and smoothly throughout the day, with impressive power on tap throughout the rev range. Most notable to this writer was the ability of a single 115hp E-TEC to power a 7.6-metre Stabicraft up on to plane and maintain a comfortable cruise speed, bearing in mind that this is a vessel rated for 225 horsepower. Recent innovations include a seemingly minor change to the control binnacle design, which has made a big difference to operator ergonomics. On current models, Evinrude’s design engineers have shifted the throttle lever outward, thus increasing clearance and allowing the operator to grasp the lever midway along its length, giving far greater fine-throttle control in a rough seaway or while crossing an ocean bar. With a model range stretching from 40hp to 250hp, there is an outboard for every need, from powering a tinny around an estuary to making a high-speed trip to an offshore reef to catch the big ones.
With today’s pollution-conscious consumer in mind, a major announcement at the launch was the introduction of the new Star emission rating system for outboard engines to help boat owners choose engines based on emission information along with other features designed to meet their usage requirements.
In a world first, the Outboard Engine Distributors Association of Australia (OEDA) announced at the Brisbane International Boat Show a Voluntary Emission Labelling Scheme (VELS) that became effective from January 1, 2007. The voluntary code is based on international emissions regulations and is supported by the major outboard distributors including Evinrude and Johnson, Honda, Mercury, Suzuki, Tohatsu and Yamaha. Under the code, engines would have permanent, recognisable external labels that identify the emissions rating of the product. The aim of the uniform labelling scheme is to assist the consumer in making better informed choices when purchasing an outboard engine. The message to the boating public is to look for the Star-rating when buying an engine from now on.
The rating system works thus:
Zero Star – (High emissions – generally two-stroke engines)
One Star – (Low emissions – many two-stroke engines)
Two Star – (Very low emissions – some two-stroke direct injection and four-stroke engines)
Three Star – (Ultra low emissions – most two-stroke direct injection and four-stroke engines)
Four Star – (Super ultra low emissions – reserved for future technologies)
The scheme is based on world standards and, in particular, the world-leading USA standards system. Future development of the Australian VELS will continue to follow world standards.