Boating to become more costly

November 01, 1994|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,Sun Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — An article Tuesday about cleaner-running powerboats should have said that a 100-horsepower outboard motor costs about $8,000.

The Sun regrets the errors.

WASHINGTON -- Boating, the weekend passion of thousands in the Chesapeake Bay region, is destined to become a cleaner (( but more costly pastime under new federal air pollution rules announced yesterday.

Targeting powerboats as one of the last major uncontrolled sources of smog, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed emission standards for new gasoline and diesel boat engines. Existing motors aren't affected.


EPA officials predicted that the standards would lead to a new generation of cleaner-burning, fuel-sipping outboard engines.

But there is a price -- a 15 percent jump in the cost of outboards, the government estimates. For example, the price of a typical 50-horsepower outboard engine, now about $8,000, would rise by $1,200.

The new standards also could boost the cost of jet-skis and other personal watercraft by 10 percent.

But EPA officials and spokesmen for marine engine manufacturers stressed that the new motors would provide 30 percent better fuel economy, easier starts, peppier acceleration and less noise.

The new rules would affect all powerboats with 2 to 600 horsepower, a range that takes in many sailboats with auxiliary motors, and all but the largest oceangoing commercial vessels.

"We are taking the next logical step in reducing pollution," said Mary Nichols, EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation. Last summer the agency proposed limits on emissions from lawn mowers and other garden equipment.

The marine rules are expected to have a major impact in Maryland, where nearly 180,000 boats with engines are registered with the state Department of Natural Resources.

There are about 15 million marine engines of all types in use nationwide, industry spokesmen say.

The emission standards, to be phased in over nine years beginning in 1998, call for a 75 percent reduction in hydrocarbons from new outboard engines, and a 37 percent reduction in nitrogen oxides from diesel engines. Those emissions combine under the hot summer sun to form ozone, the chief component of smog.

The EPA is focusing on marine motors because their design makes them "dirtier" than auto engines. For example, a 50-horsepower outboard running for one hour spews the same VTC volume of hydrocarbons as a car driven 800 miles, the government estimates.

Outboards' two-cycle engines pack a lot of power for their weight, but they also allow up to one-third of the hydrocarbons in the fuel to escape unburned through the exhaust.

Large powerboats and some sailboats have inboard gasoline engines or diesels, both of which are "cleaner" than outboards. However, diesels do emit nitrogen oxides.

Motorboats in the upper Chesapeake Bay generate 7.8 tons of hydrocarbons on a typical day in the summer, the state Department of the Environment estimates. If unchecked, those emissions are projected to reach 9.6 tons a day by the year 2005.

The Baltimore area already has the nation's sixth-worst smog.

EPA officials said yesterday that few changes would be required for inboard engines, which are closer in design to auto engines. But building cleaner outboards will require a major engineering effort, said Jeff W. Napier, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Engine-makers, who cooperated with the government in developing the regulations, said that achieving the emission limits will require major advances such as fuel injection, because automotive-style catalytic converters would quickly corrode.

Outboard Marine Corp., the Illinois-based manufacturer of Johnson and Evinrude engines, announced yesterday that it plans within a year to begin offering a reduced-pollution outboard that has German-pioneered fuel injection.

Because turnover in the nation's motorboat fleet is slow, 20 years or more may pass before all the old-style engines are gone. But dealers could start offering trade-in incentives to hasten the turnover and lower the cost barrier to buying the new engines, officials said.

The industry, which sells 500,000 to 600,000 new marine engines a year, hopes that phasing in the higher-priced motors will not hurt sales.

"Boaters are going to boat. The sales are going to be there," said David Baumgartner, general manager of Riverside Marine in Essex. But he said the higher costs may be hard to swallow for commercial fishermen, who often have to replace their engines every two or three years.

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