Catalytic Converters Are Coming Soon - 06/03/2009
If you cancelled your move to California to avoid having to buy catalytic converters for your stern drive or inboard gas engines, then we have some bad news. If you buy a new boat in 2010 – in any state -- you may have to. As we noted last year when it happened, the EPA has formalized new exhaust emission standards for marine “spark-ignition” engines and they will be fazed in next year. Based on what boat builders are charging extra for products going into California (which required catalytic converters in 2008) you will be paying anywhere from about $2750 to $5000 more extra for that new boat. (Most outboard engines comply with the new regs already and diesels are not “spark-ignited”.)

 Catalytic Converters
Catalytic converters will be required of every new 2010 stern drive or inboard gas engine anywhere in the U.S., raising the price anywhere from $2,750 to $10,000 for a new boat.

We are told by John McKnight, Director, Environmental & Safety Compliance for the NMMA, that all 2010 stern drive and inboard gas engines will have to be EPA emissions compliant. He said the operative phrase here is “engine model year” not the “boat model year.” So that means, as we understand it, that engines made in 2009 which go into 2010 boat models will not be required to have the catalytic converters.

McKnight said that if there are 2009 engines in the distribution pipeline without catalytic converters after January 1, 2010, that is all right so long as the engine companies start installing them with their 2010 engine models.

Coming in 2010

What this means for consumers is that sometime during 2010, Volvo Penta and MerCruiser will flush out all of the 2009 non-catalytic converter-equipped engines and change over to the new requirement. It means that as the old product is sold off it will be replaced with boats with the catalytic converters – and a higher price tag. This is how the change over occurred in California in 2008 and it seemed to work fairly smoothly.

Higher Costs

If there was ever a reason to buy a boat before a model change over this is it. We have spot checked the extra charge builders are making to their California customers for engines equipped with catalytic converters and it seems to be running from $2750 to about $5000 per engine, depending on the size of the engine and the boat. That means boats with twin stern drives or gas engines will cost from about $6,000 to $10,000 more.

Ironically, this means that the small “affordable” sport boats will be hit with the highest price increases, at $2750 extra that would be nearly 20% for one low-priced 17-footer we checked. Boats in the 20’ to 26’ range with single engines might go up something on the order 6% to 12%, and the largest boats, say those with large twin gas inboard engines in a 35-footer, may only go up 4% overall.

But whether it is a 4% increase or a 20% increase in the total price of the boat it is a cost that can’t be negotiated away. And it is here to stay.

The New World

All of this means that carburetors will be a thing of the past. The EPA in its ruling said, “We expect manufacturers to meet these standards with three-way catalysts and closed loop fuel injection.” But that is not all. The EPA is requiring that monitoring systems be embedded in the exhaust system to signal if the unit is not working properly.

The EPA did not stop with engines, and it also adopted “…new standards to control evaporative emissions for all vessels using marine spark-ignition engines. The new standards include requirements to control fuel tank permeation, fuel line permeation, and diurnal fuel tank vapor emissions, including provisions to ensure that refueling emissions do not increase.”

There will be benefits to the boat owner beyond taking part in improving air quality. The catalytic converters greatly reduce the danger from CO emissions as they will be so low as to be virtually unnoticeable. By stopping fuel line permeation there should not be any odor of gasoline in a boat and chances of explosion should be reduced. And catalytic converters have been found to improve fuel mileage and horsepower slightly.

So the world moves on. And the boating environment becomes a little bit better and a little bit more expensive.