Let this be said ahead of time, the idea that going green and hybrid and saving the planet from emissions is, in our opinion, a crock of shit. Do you really care that much about emissions or are you more concerned with spending $4 for a gallon of gas?
Look, its all well and good that people want to drive electric cars or hydrogen powered cars or whatever, but, the simple fact is, the energy to power your car or truck has to come from somewhere. If its hydrogen fuel cells, the laws of thermodynamics dictate that is is more inefficient to produce hydrogen then your internal combustion engine.
Electric powered vehicles still require coal or nuclear plants to produce the energy needed.
So, basically, its a wash.
However, what isn't a wash and what really gets us is the cost to drive and by extension, the cost to drive your boat around. Think about it, in the majority of your routine ski runs you are probably at 3,000 to 4,000 RPM's in a 350 cubic inch engine, which, while loud and awesome, really isn't doing much in terms of sipping gas.
Think of a wakeboard run, with full ballasts and whatnot in the boat, you can blow through a full tank of gas easy in an afternoon. For that matter, think of taking a footing run, a big ass motor running wide open?
So, while auto makers scramble to out-do each other and somehow make themselves seem as if they are the most environmentally friendly person on the planet, the boat industry seems to be way behind the times.
We have heard it said that, "The people who can afford to buy a Mastercraft aren't that concerned with the price of gas". Well, NO SHIT, they cost like $60,000 for a freaking Prostar 197, which isn't that special of a boat as it is!! Its a freaking hull, motor and some gizmo's inside to make you feel cool.
Side note: Yes, the people who can afford a boat don't worry about gas, what about the people who WANT to buy a boat but can't? 40, 50, 60 fucking thousand for a tub with a motor is obscene...whatever.
Thats it, boats are basically the same as they have been for years.
The one place where real changes can, could and should be made is under the hood.
The first and possibly easiest way to do this is to look towards the European car market, where they all zoom around in little cars powered by small Diesel motors that are by their very nature more efficient then their gas counterparts.
Mastercraft and Supra, I believe, are working on or have these available right now. Yes, that is true, guess Mastercraft has had it out since 2007, its a $30,000 upgrade. Jesus...
Well, anyways, the details of the motor is basically this, its the same 3.0 Liter 6-Cylinder turbo diesel from Audi that you would find in a A4 or A6, makes about 225 horsepower and of course gobs of torque.
Which, really, isn't that what you need in skiing?
Now, a $30,000 upgrade is a joke, you will never, ever, make up that price difference even if you ran it on used McDonald's French fry oil and installed a fusion thing from the Delorian in "Back to the Future."
However, if you look at or know anything about the future of the Automotive industry, you would know that smaller, turbo-diesels are going to be powering more and more of the autos that are available. The reasons are simple, Direct-Rail injection, the inherent efficiency of Diesel engines and the low-end torque make driving much easier then gas engines.
Can this be transferred over, in any mass production capacity, to the boating world?
Sure! A decent example of something super mean, fast and bad-ass, is the upcoming Audi Q7 TDI Quattro SUV. This bastard will probably have sex wit your sister, your mother and your girlfriend while you watch, then laugh about it and smack you in the face before leaving and pissing on your rug. It boasts 500 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque.
Wha? Christ!! All while getting about 20 miles per gallon. Wow.
There is also the option of cutting out the middle man and doing all this yourself. A company called USA Marine Diesel makes a engine that is marine ready that you can drop into a boat your own damn-self, should you feel it necessary.
The other option, which may or may not be as viable, is to utilize the Hybrid Technology that is employed in some current production vehicles and transfer that over to your boat.
The first Hybrid that comes to everyone's mind is the Prius, but, the technology in one of those is probably far to great for any real practical boating application. However, one of the more recent applications of Hybrid technology, that would logically make a transition to the boating world, is the 6.0L V8 Hybrid from GM that is used in both the Yukon and Tahoe Hybrid.
Long story short, GM uses what they call a two-mode hybrid system, where the motor is shut off and the vehicle is powered by the battery pack during low power situations, like, putting around town, sitting at stop lights, getting low-speed hummers from a hooker, etc.
When more power is needed, like, accelerating away from a stop-light, passing on the highway, towing a boat, escaping the police, the battery pack fires up the engine and then you have the bad-ass 6.0L Vortec at your disposal.
This, in theory, could work in a boat, when you are idling or putting around, its all electric, but, when you are pulling a skier or hauling ass across the lake the gas motor is on and no-one is the wiser.
The problem here is the issue of having the extra weight in the boat for the batteries and assorted electronic goodies that make this beast go. Along those lines, many hybrids use regenerative braking to help replenish the battery packs, which, in a boat really wouldn't work. But, it would be our guess that if you putt around or idle to long and the battery packs are going dead, the motor would just fire up and recharge that way.
Either way, and either option, should and could save your money at the pump. That is the ultimate goal is it not? We all know this sport is bonkers expensive as it is, and lets be honest, we are all pretty lucky to be able to take part in it. But, if we have to shell out these kind of dollars for a boat, gas, equipment, etc, etc, it will soon price many of us out of the sport.
Look, we all know where this is going, the cost to enjoy your boat and enjoy our sport will keep going up, there is no way around it, the only thing we can hope for is more efficient ways of doing this and hopefully, someone, somewhere, with a computer, a engineering degree and some foresight will figure out a way to allow us to continue doing what we love.
Part 2 coming soon