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Outboard makers crank out cleaner machines

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January 19, 1997
Web posted at: 3:30 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Natalie Pawelski

LAKE ALLATOONA, Georgia (CNN) -- While flying across the water in an outboard motorboat can be quite a rush, it's hard to enjoy the great outdoors when you're filling the air with smoke and slicking the water with oil. But a new generation of cleaner outboard motors is helping to make the sport friendlier to America's waterways.

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This month, Outboard Marine Corp. is releasing a new, radically cleaner two-stroke engine. Its computerized direct-injection system keeps unburned fuel from spilling out into the environment. That makes the outboard not only cleaner, but more efficient too.

The downside is that the new engine costs 20 percent more than a conventional model, at least for now.

Outboard Marine is spending $100 million to develop the new engine and converting its factories in order to build it.

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The company doesn't have much of a choice; the Environmental Protection Agency is forcing outboard makers to clean up their act.

The EPA has given the outboard industry 10 years to cut emissions by 75 percent. Over the next decade, manufacturers will stop shipping conventional outboards and continue to develop cleaner models. It's the first time outboard makers have been required to meet pollution standards.

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Some manufacturers are concentrating on four-stroke engines, touted as naturally cleaner. But others -- including Mercury Marine, Outboard Marine's main U.S. competitor -- are concentrating on cleaning up two-strokes.

"The new direct-injection technology basically takes the two-stroke engine -- which a lot of people thought was dead -- and gives it a whole new lease on life," said Russ VanRens of Outboard Marine.

Manufacturers say the key is keeping performance levels high, even as pollution levels drop. So far, they seem to be pulling it off.


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