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Gasoline Cost and Effect on Engine Choice
|Author||Topic: Gasoline Cost and Effect on Engine Choice|
posted 01-14-2015 08:06 PM ET (US)
I remember very distinctly that in 2003, while on a load road trip to the West Coast, we saw the price of gasoline fuel on the highway go above $2-per-gallon. I got some gasoline today at $1.88-per-gallon. That is an amazing price reduction from just last summer when we were paying over $4-per-gallon. Only about three years ago we were in Ireland and paid $9-per-gallon. About that same time in the North Channel of Lake Huron in Canada we were paying $6-per-gallon.
With fuel cost under $2-per-gallon now, the concept of fretting about some tiny incremental improvement in fuel economy to be gained by buying one brand of outboard engine over another has become meaningless. I recall all the chest puffing and proud bragging about one engine being able to get 0.1-MPG better fuel economy at some carefully selected cruising speed compared to some equally carefully selected (for most disadvantage) speed of another engine brand. It is all meaningless now.
I have observed that my engine burns about 3.8-GPH on average. I usually go boating about 70-hours per season. That means I will be buying 266-gallons of fuel. Let us suppose I changed engines to realize that elusive extra 0.1-GPH of savings. I would save 7-gallons of fuel each season--a total savings of $14. Fuel economy is now something you really don't need to worry about.
Imagine if I had kept my old engine, which used twice as much fuel. I'd be buying an extra 266-gallons of gasoline next season. That is just $532 added fuel cost. That new engine that will save you $532 will cost $17,000. In 31-years you will recover the cost of the new engine in saved fuel. These unprecedented low gasoline prices have upset the whole paradigm of saving fuel with a modern engine.
It will be nice to see all those old, classic, smoking two-cycle engine boats back on the water this summer.
posted 01-14-2015 08:50 PM ET (US)
I paid $2.05 the other day, have not seen it cheaper yet Ft. Lauderdale
posted 01-15-2015 07:34 AM ET (US)
Typically, at the 225 HP level there is a 2 to 3 GPH differential in fuel consumption across the entire operating range between a carbureted 225 HP 2-stroke and a 225 HP DFI 2-stroke. What that means is that if your current engine burns about 3.8 GPH each hour on average, then your old engine probably burned about 5.8 GPH (or a little more) on average in the same duty cycle. So over the 70 operating hours in the season, at $2 per gallon, your DFI 2-stroke would save you $140 in gasoline costs.
Back in the 2003 time frame, according to one retail boating operation that advertised outboard prices, the price of an Evinrude Ficht 225 was $12,000 and the price of a Johnson 225 was $8,000. If the price of fuel was $2.00 per gallon and the fuel consumption differential between those two motors was 2.5 GPH then it would take about 800 operating hours to get to recapture the extra cost of the DFI motor in fuel savings. For the average boater, 50 hours is a typical season so recapture would take approximately 16 years.
Of course there are other benefits to the DFI over carbureted but if one were to look strictly at fuel cost savings, the economics are not there to drive the purchasing public towards the cleaner, more fuel efficient option. This is why the EPA had to step in and regulate carbureted 2-stroke outboards out of the market.
posted 01-15-2015 08:43 AM ET (US)
Some miscellaneous thoughts on the current lower gas prices and motor choices:
--greater efficiency increases range as well as reducing overall fuel spend. For some boaters, that matters a lot.
--greater efficiency is also more environmentally sound.
--don't expect the current low prices to last all that long - the oil sellers with lower production costs are just driving prices down long enough to take the higher production cost players out of the game. My guess is that will take about a year.
posted 01-15-2015 09:39 AM ET (US)
There are many benefits of the modern engines in addition to their fuel economy improvement. But we see that even when the improvement is huge--doubling the MPG for example--the actual dollars saved are not very large for the typical recreational boater. When you look at a very minor difference in fuel consumption, as might occur between two modern engines of slightly different fuel economy, the possibility of saving money with the better fuel consumption becomes very insignificant at the present cost of gasoline and the usual number of hours of operation.
posted 01-15-2015 10:39 AM ET (US)
If recreational boating was driven by cost-effectiveness, there would be far fewer recreational boaters! Certainly including me.
posted 01-15-2015 12:48 PM ET (US)
"If recreational boating was driven by cost-effectiveness, there would be far fewer recreational boaters! Certainly including me."
And if putting meat in the cooler were your primary goal when fishing, sell the boat and stop at the fish market!
posted 01-16-2015 10:22 AM ET (US)
Yes, moving around in a boat at a fuel economy of maybe 3-MPG is not a very rational method of travel. By that same concept, strongly endorsing an engine that gets 3.1-MPH over one that only gets 3.0-MPG is also not particularly rational.
posted 01-16-2015 10:28 AM ET (US)
I was just reading that car manufacturers in the USA are worried about compliance with the corporate average fuel economy (C.A.F.E.) minimum fleet fuel economy requirements because the unusually low price of gasoline has caused car buyers to return to less fuel efficient vehicles. Car makers are anticipating that continued low gasoline prices will cause the mix of products they sell to fall below the mandated C.A.F.E. minimums. Low gasoline prices are cutting down the sales of small, high fuel economy cars and also hybrid gasoline-electric cars, and boosting the sale of full-size SUV and truck vehicles.
posted 01-17-2015 09:03 AM ET (US)
Car manufacturers said the same thing back in the 70's, but they were forced to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions, legislation is what is needed to drive better fuel economy.
My Passat diesel will go 1200 km's on 65 liters, mainly because of CAFE rules I assume. VW has a concept getting over 200 MPG, they have a race Beetle which is 1.6 liters and has 554 HP. Maybe they will invent a 1 liter diesel which puts out 100HP and 300 ft lbs of torque and it will be adapted to an outboard like a Crosley 4 cyl gas car motor which became the first 4 stroke outboard. And we'll get 6 MPG in a Whaler. The 300 ft lbs could run gearing to bring the RPM up and give comparable performance to a current gas 4 stroke of 150/175HP, or whatever.
Low or high fuel prices times my 50/60 hours a year will not have much payback dollar wise for an outboard upgrade. Performance, noise, and smoke would be the motivation for getting rid of a 140HP 1994 2 stroke.
posted 01-17-2015 10:28 AM ET (US)
European car manufacturers don't need any legislation to develop and sell vehicles with the best fuel economy they are able develop. The price of fuel in Europe drives the economy of vehicles sold there. If the fuel economy is not great the marketplace will drive the vehicles out. Interestingly, many cars and trucks are now not only more efficient but also provide better performance.
Now that many US vehicle manufacturers are exporting product to Europe, Latin America and Asia fuel economy has become more important.
CAFE rules will simply limit the availability of less economical vehicles thus driving up their prices. Added Federal economy demands are no longer needed. I tend to believe that should fuel prices fall much farther and remain low for a few years very economical yet poor performing cars will disappear from the market (except perhaps in Hollywood).
My concern is that lower fuel prices will drive down oil production and exploration creating another large bubble in unemployment and possibly keeping our goal of full energy independence from realization. Recently an oilfield service provider announced layoffs of 9000 employees. That's bad for everyone in North America.
posted 01-17-2015 06:30 PM ET (US)
I am glad to have a fuel efficient motor for other reasons, one of which is the ability to easily cover 300 miles ona single tank of fuel. I plan on taking many trips to remote areas and trying to find fuel all the time is no fun
posted 01-18-2015 06:55 AM ET (US)
Fuel prices will be back up in 1 year or less is my best current guess.
And what is happening in auto engines spins off into outboards, especially the emissions rules. Fuel economy is so hard to measure in a boat, lots of variables. Since most boats burn more fuel per hour than a Peterbilt or a CAT dozer, if someone gets a new outboard motor with significantly better fuel economy, it would sell, even though we boaters only put low hours on our outboards.
CAFE rules,the fleet average fuel economy numbers, will force manufacturers to better fuel economy on what they actually sell. So that is already what is forcing Ford to make a turbo V6 gas that performs like a V8, an aluminum cab, Dodge to make a 1500 diesel and a hemi with fuel shutoff.
A third thing is competition from the rest of the world, but in NA that has not been that big a deal, they don't buy pickups and SUV's like we do here so they are not competing in that market much yet. With CAFE, there is an incentive to make changes in what is actually being sold, without CAFE and emissions standards, we might still be driving 1975 454 cars and trucks getting 8 miles per gallon.
We boaters know global warming is real, you can feel those changes in weather patterns. It blows more often, rain fall is now more frequently measured in inches, ocean water is warmer where I live, etc. Without government regulation, big business has little motivation to improve fuel economy or the air we breathe.
Emission standards have already changed the air we breathe, remember when you were driving down the highway behind a large diesel truck, it would make you gag. Now you rarely smell a diesel.
posted 01-18-2015 09:25 AM ET (US)
Power boating and fuel economy.........an oxymoron for sure!
I agree with Don, this $2 gasoline is temporary. If it were to remain over an extended multi-year period, it will probably be taxed heavily by certain states. You all know that drill......
Today's modern outboards are superior for a myriad of reasons....fuel economy is only one, and for me, no where near first place.
I appreciate the rapid starts, smoke-free, quiet, dependable performance.
Fabulous even if they had the same fuel economy of their predecessors.
When you consider the added fuel economy.......it is truly a quantum leap in progress.
posted 01-19-2015 11:22 AM ET (US)
"Since most boats burn more fuel per hour than a Peterbilt or a CAT dozer, if someone gets a new outboard motor with significantly better fuel economy, it would sell, even though we boaters only put low hours on our outboards."
I'm of a different opinion. 4-stroke technology providing significant improvement in fuel economy over conventional 2-stroke technology was available since the dawn of the outboard motor. Despite this significant fuel economy advantage, 4-stroke technology did not really catch on until emissions regulations made them economically viable. The reason is that the consumer cost of obtaining and the industry's infrastructure cost of producing and maintaining that better fuel economy was quite high, having the break even period for the return on the investment stretching out many, many years. The shift to more fuel efficient outboards was driven by emissions regulations. The fuel efficiency of the low emissions outboards is merely a collateral benefit that by itself was not enough to drive the market.
posted 01-19-2015 03:23 PM ET (US)
I have read and heard from several different sources in the oil industry that oil prices will remain low for at least 2 years. The Saudis are trying to drive the US fracking businesses out of business and plan to do all they can to hold oil prices low until they feel they control the market again. However, even the Saudis concede that $100 a barrel oil is probably gone for the foreseeable future, if not longer. When oil hits the $70 mark, fracking becomes profitable, very profitable. Now that the fracking technology is readily available, the start up time for oil production from fracking is very short. While oil may not stay below $50 forever, I don't see it rising much above $70 for quite a while.
That said, the fuel efficiency of an outboard engine is terrible regardless of whether it is two or four stroke when compared to almost all other vehicles. An old guy told me once that the very cheapest way to move a boat was on the trailer.
posted 01-20-2015 01:57 AM ET (US)
If you change engines like you change clothes, then run out and get a couple of 300's or 350's and change back when the price goes up. I've yet to win the Lotto, so I'm more like 15-20 years with the same engine. There are cycles. When gas was in the $4's and $5's, all the boo-hooers (so called experts) were saying we'd be paying $10/gallon right now. And we aren't are we. This won't last forever either; these prices. There are fluctuations and if you're not re-powering every couple of years, I would recommend thinking broadly about an engine that suits your needs and has decent economy for when prices fluctuate yet again.
posted 01-20-2015 07:53 PM ET (US)
If choosing a new engine performance and reliability would be my foremost concerns. Economy would fall very near the bottom. Acquisition cost would rank right behind performance and reliability. When the cost of fuel is compared with all the other costs of boating most of us would find it is a RELATIVELY minor consideration.
posted 01-23-2015 10:39 AM ET (US)
In central Michigan on a two-lane highway I saw gasoline at a major-brand station selling for $1.77 a few days ago. That is very cheap gasoline.
posted 01-23-2015 10:52 PM ET (US)
I would never buy a new engine for my boat based only on fuel economy alone. Exactly what Peter said the difference in savings for a recreational boater is peanuts. 70 hours and 140.00 a year. Please! Its silly really when you write it all down on paper and examine what it will cost you for a new engine. The plus side is you get a modern clean motor with other great features and this might be all that a buyer desires. If I were to buy a new motor it would be because I need one and the engines sold today are 90% four stroke. I would not exclude a two cycle from my choice either.
In Canada our government does a great job in sellling us a guilt trip on how gas is in such demand and we have so little to buy so thats why our prices are so heavy! oh and by the way be green and look at other choices like riding bikes up hills all day in suites in the pouring rain.
LOl although just temporary this sudden and drastic drop in gas prices is not helping their case. Also Obama wants the Alaskan pipeline to run through Canada. This is a LONG term decision not thought of overnight. Clearly gas is not a problem the earth has a massive surplus of it and the belief is we don't have it but if you need it we have if for you at connivence but it will cost you. LOL again Please!
Just like Peter said the four stroke technology was here long before it made it to the market in numbers and demand. If gas was such an issue and it was a dying resource new technology such as cars running without gas would have been here a long time ago. Its all money and oil driven from the top.
posted 01-24-2015 09:05 AM ET (US)
To put the $1.77 price into inflation adjusted perspective, see inflationdata.com/Inflation/images/charts/Oil/Gasoline_inflation_chart. htm . Based on that chart, the price of $1.77 for a gallon of gas is getting close to the inflation adjusted bottom.
For approximately 80 years (1918 to 1998) the inflation adjusted price of gas was trending downward and if anything, during that time the financial pressure on the conventional, less fuel efficient 2-stroke outboard was lessening with payback periods for the more fuel efficient technology (4-strokes and DFI 2-strokes) getting longer. Thus, the EPA had to step in to wipe out the conventional 2-stroke because the natural economic forces through 1998 would not seem to do so. It also appears that for approximately the last 17 years, since 1998, the price of oil has been in a bubble probably caused by geopolitical tensions and the "growing money on trees" financial crisis management techniques.
posted 01-24-2015 10:18 AM ET (US)
In 1956 I believe we were paying about 25 cents per gallon for regular gas in New Mexico. I was earning about one dollar an hour working at a service station part time. After taxes my pay was closer to $.84 per hour. I could buy 3.36 gallons of gas for an hours pay at approximately the minimum wage.
How much gasoline will an hour of the minimum wage, after the usual withholding, buy today? Depending upon the locality I suspect the minimum wage today will buy slightly more gasoline than in 1956. That sounds about right to me.
On reflection I failed to factor in the taxes on gasoline in 1956 compared to the taxes today. It seems it would be a miracle if fuel taxes today do not make up a greater part of gasoline prices than in 1956 although the percentage of tax may now be similar to then.
I do know the cost of operating a "service" station today is far less than in 1956. The service station where I worked had a full time mechanic and two full time pump jockeys. There were two shifts of pump jockeys so that's five full time employees plus the owner. In the summer when we were much busier due to tourist travel one or two part time employees were hired. The station had a wide inventory of tires, batteries, belts, wiper blades, battery cables, etc.
Amazingly, in our very small town we have a real service station with attendants, a mechanic, a wrecker and some inventory. Gasoline there costs about ten cents more than other locations. They also sell ethanol free mid-grade gasoline. They pump gasoline or diesel and wash windshields. They check oil on request. The station is doing very well from all outward appearances and has been operating since the fifties.
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