diy-electrical-engine_choices-largeThe recent Miami International Boat Show (February 14-18, 2007) was the launching pad for a host of new products, most notably from the engine manufacturers.

Among the biggest news stories in the diesel field was that Cummins MerCruiser Diesel (CMD) has announced that they have started shipment of pre-production Zeus pod drive systems.

We have heard about the Zeus system over the past year, but there were Zeus drives running in Miami and now, several boat builders have Zeus-powered models in the water with many additional models scheduled for first installation in the coming months. CMD will be accepting production orders in Q1 of 2007 and the Zeus system will be available to the public in 2008 model year boats.

Canada's Doral is to be one of the very first non-Brunswick Corporation builders to get Zeus drives and they are excited about it in Grand Mère, Quebec. We learned that the engine layout and positioning of the drives can liberate an additional 41 inches of cabin space in its flagship Alegria model, resulting in a huge increase in the aft cabin accommodations.

Cummins MerCruiser Diesel claims up to 15% faster speeds, 30% better fuel economy, outstanding handling at high and low speeds and vessel systems integration unparalleled in the marine industry, compared to a standard inboard drive.

You have heard us talk about the pod drives before. They have been used in commercial ships for some time, but in the recreational market, Volvo Penta was first out with the IPS 350 and IPS 500 models. That line has now expanded to the IPS 400 and IPS 600 models.

Now the Zeus system is entering the market. Zeus incorporates a familiar looking, yet totally new pod with counter-rotating stainless steel, rear facing propellers and a through hub exhaust.

Independent vectoring for each pod delivers dramatically improved high-speed handling. Docking is easier. The steerable pods, along with an advanced joystick control system deliver precise turning and tight maneuvering that is far superior to bow thrusters. In addition, Skyhook Electronic AnchorTM, a component of the CMD Precision PilotTM system keeps a Zeus-equipped vessel on a fixed heading within a tight area, even in strong currents and windy conditions.

The pods produce horizontal thrust so the full power of the engines are utilized to drive the boat forward, unlike standard inboard shafts that push a boat upwards. The Zeus 3500 and Zeus 3800 are available with up to 550 hp.

Of greater interest to the general public, though, is that CMD has a broad range of diesel power, from 115-715 hp for recreational applications with many of their diesel engines now paired with their new Saltwater stern drives called the SeaCore™ system.

Rather than just enclosing the drive components, SeaCore™ protects them all the way to the core. Industrial hardcoat anodized XK-360 aluminum alloy for Bravo® running gear works in concert with MerCathode® active corrosion protection and a closed-cooling system that seals engine from saltwater.

SeaCore™ is available only with the newly released CMD QSD engine series starting at 170 hp. These engines include: QSD2.8-170 , QSD2.8-210, QSD2.8-230, QSD4.2-270 and QSD4.2-320. Sterndrive options are: Bravo One Diesel X, Bravo Two Diesel X, and Bravo Three Diesel X.

In other diesel news from CMD, Peter Bethune aboard the futuristic Earthrace powerboat is on the water from March to April 2007 as his team prepares to break the world circumnavigation record of 75 days.

The Earthrace vessel is the world's first major powerboat record to be attempted using renewable fuels. The boat is powered by 100% biodiesel, a fuel made from plant matter and animal fats that produces low emissions and is biodegradable. The Earthrace vessel is powered by two 540 HP Cummins MerCruiser Diesel engines (QSC8.3-540) and has a unique wave-piercing hull that goes through, rather than rides on top of waves.

CMD sees the Earthrace as a valuable project, drawing much-needed attention to the use of cleaner fuels and circumnavigating the globe represents the pinnacle of powerboat challenges; at 24,000 nautical miles, it is the world's longest race. The 78-foot long vessel carries a crew of 4 and can hit 45 knots.