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Boating Tips

Take Command of Fuel Efficiency

Posted 3/3/2014

Yamaha gives you the tools to reduce fuel consumption

Gasoline—it was once so cheap it was a non-factor in everyday life. You stopped at the gas station and filled up that gas guzzling four-wheeled monster without a second thought. The same went for your boat. Gather up the family, fill the tank and away you’d go for an afternoon of fishing, waterskiing or cruising because fuel expense was just no big deal for the average middle class family.

As we all know, those days are gone and things have changed significantly. Gas prices now fluctuate between three and four dollars a gallon, and even more for marine gas purchased on the water. Today’s drivers and boaters are constantly striving to wring more miles from each gallon.

Manufacturers are working harder all the time to offer more fuel-efficient boats and motors, but the challenge is a bit more daunting than it is with road vehicles. Pushing a boat hull through the water requires considerably more power than rolling a car over a smooth roadway. Obviously, the engine dynamics and power requirements for a boat are more complex, but boat and engine manufacturers have been finding ingenious ways to make recreational vessels burn less fuel. That said, as a boat owner you can exercise more control over the amount of fuel you use than you might think. No, we’re not talking about using your boat less, just operating it more efficiently. All you need are a few critical bits of information while running your boat. The tools that provide this information can help you to make smarter operating decisions. 

Yamaha’s four-stroke engine technology is on the cutting edge of fuel efficiency. In each horsepower class, Yamaha provides the power you need while burning much less fuel than outboards did just a few years ago. Yamaha engineers also understand the importance of providing critical engine information to you while you are operating your boat. It is this information that makes it possible to run it farther on less gasoline, thus reducing operating expenses and extending your boating enjoyment. The tools they developed for providing this information are the Command Link® and 

Command Link Plus® engine gauge systems. The same gauges that tell you engine RPM and vessel speed can also provide continuous, highly accurate fuel consumption data as you run the boat. With this information, you can adjust engine RPM to squeeze the most nautical miles out of each gallon of fuel burned. 

Yamaha's Command Link and Command Link Plus gauges link to their outboard's ECM to provide accurate fuel FLOW (GPH) and fuel ECONomy (MPG) to make it easy to operate your vessel in a more economical manner.

Let’s take a look at how the system works. Most modern outboards are equipped with an Electronic Control Module (ECM), essentially the engine’s computer brain. It accounts for and orchestrates all operational aspects of the engine, including fuel and air mixture supply, spark timing, and operating temperature. It also includes a host of early warning systems to prevent engine damage. 

“The ECM on Yamaha outboards continuously calculates exactly how much fuel is being consumed using an ‘injector-on-time’ system,” said David Meeler, Yamaha Marine Group Product Information Manager. “The ECM, through a vast array of sensors, is responsible for metering just the right amount of fuel for any given throttle setting and engine speed. It accounts for all facets of performance—things like in-gear idle, hard acceleration, cruising in the mid-range, or running on the pins. The ECM then relays the data regarding the amount of fuel that passes through the electronic fuel injectors in real time to our Command Link engine monitoring systems. The process is extremely accurate.”

All you have to do to reduce fuel consumption at cruise is adjust the engine RPM until you find the highest MPG reading. This is the vessel's "sweet spot" where the engine and hull are working in harmony to provide you with the most nautical miles from a gallon of gasoline.

How accurate? When you first set up a Command Link system you will enter in the size of your boat’s fuel tank in gallons and as you run the boat, the system will calculate how many miles are left in the tank until it is empty. When you fill up, don’t be surprised when it takes almost exactly the amount of fuel the system tells you was burned. That simple test provides the proof of a fuel management system’s accuracy. 

Fuel data is transmitted to the Local Area Network (LAN) and displayed to the operator by the Command Link or Command Link Plus gauge system as fuel flow in gallons-per-hour (GPH). With a little mathematical calculation, you can ascertain that all important bit of information that tells you just how efficiently you are running at current speed called miles-per-gallon (MPG). The calculation is simple enough, just divide speed by GPH and there you have it. Calculating long division while driving a boat, however, might not be such a good idea. So to make it easier, the Yamaha system incorporates the vessel’s speed from its electronic speed sensor and feeds that into the LAN where it is used to provide the vessel operator with continuous exact fuel economy readings in MPG at current speed. 

So how does this help you save fuel? Most boats are operated at cruising speed a majority of the time, yet most boat owners have no idea what the most economical cruising speed is for their vessel - the “sweet spot” where the boat is achieving the greatest distance per gallon burned. Different hull designs have different operational characteristics, which are complicated by how they are powered. A boat that is underpowered can actually consume more fuel at cruise than a boat that is correctly or evenly overpowered. Every hull and engine combination

varies and additional factors affecting fuel economy include the weight the boat is carrying (fuel on board, number of passengers, gear, etc.) and sea conditions. Without a continuous MPG reading, you have to guess where the sweet spot is and that is a very difficult assumption to get right. Some boat owners are surprised to find that their boats actually operated more efficiently at speeds faster than they estimated. Others realize that if they trimmed a few hundred RPM off their cruising speed, they could reduce fuel consumption by a significant margin. The ultimate telltale for finding the sweet spot for your vessel is that all-important continuous MPG readout displayed by the Yamaha Command Link and Command Link Plus systems at the helm. 

Any outboard motor that provides this critical information accurately puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to fuel economy. Yamaha Command Link and Command Link Plus systems definitely let you take command of how efficiently you run your boat, and ultimately help to mitigate high fuel prices.