• The Genesis of the Evinrude E-TEC Outboard

    FICHT®; A Different Path

    Outboard Marine Corporation began development of such a direct-injected outboard in the 1990s, which would use the FICHT direct fuel injection system. We have all heard of FICHT, but what is it?

    The technology behind the FICHT direct-injection system was developed in East Germany by engineer Wolfgang Heimberg in the 1970s. The motivation for this invention was a bolt-on modification to the ubiquitous and notoriously smoke-bellowing Trabant automobile. It was thought that this technology would ‘clean up’ the Trabant as well as make it more fuel efficient. As it turns out, the Trabant never became a DFI Trabant, and Heimberg migrated to West Germany and joined FICHT GmBH to further explore and develop the technology. The name ‘FICHT’ is the namesake of Reinhold Ficht, who, together with his son, founded the FICHT company in 1977.

    OMC recognized that outboard engines would, in the near future, need to not only clean up their act but offer consumers the very same reliable running experience that contemporary cars were already achieving. By the late-1980s, most cars were no longer carbureted, and the consumer experience brought by this technology would naturally become expectant on the boating industry as well. And while manifold-injected engines would begin to appear, this design was incapable of offering emissions compliance for the future. But the technology revolution for outboard engines was underway.
    1997: Evinrude FICHT was their first direct-injected outboard, with a primary focus on emissions compliance. It would be Evinrude's first step on what would become the path to the E-TEC.
    Direct fuel injection offered many more potential advantages over multi-port manifold fuel injection; delivering atomized fuel directly into the combustion chamber offers a far greater degree of precision than is possible by mixing the charge in the intake manifold. Manifold fuel injection was absolutely better than carburetion for the overall user experience, but direct injection would have far more performance and emissions-compliance potential moving forward.

    Direct fuel injection is not a new concept, and its benefits have been understood decades before the technology became commonplace. Indeed, some German World War II fighter aircraft were direct-injected, giving them a performance advantage over their Allied counterparts in high G-force aerial combat. This was not electronic fuel injection, however, as the system was mechanically controlled. And while crude compared to today’s microprocessor-controlled fuel injection systems, it demonstrated dramatic performance advantages across the board.

    To Outboard Marine Corporation, the future benefits of direct fuel injection were clear, however, a direct-injected outboard engine had not existed in production up to that point in time, so this would be uncharted territory for an outboard engine manufacturer. There were many pieces to this puzzle that needed to be sorted, and it would not be easy.

    One key to its advancement was a development by an Australian company, Orbital Corp., which introduced a system that features injectors for both air and for fuel mounted on the cylinder heads. OMC purchased licensing rights to this technology and developed prototypes, but abandoned the project when a better and simpler DFI design was discovered in the FICHT injection system.

    In the mid-1990s, OMC was able to broker a deal for the intellectual property of FICHT GmBH, and this would become the cornerstone of what would develop to be FICHT Ram Injection. Although OMC was at the end of its financial tether as a business at this time and there were some problems to be overcome with FICHT, the venture paid huge dividends in what would be the development of its eventual successor, the Evinrude E-TEC. But that success would not be realized by OMC. OMC as a company was finished, however its pioneering work with direct fuel injection would lay the foundation for Evinrude’s future.

    Video: The FICHT injector utilized a spring to return the injector to its closed phase, which limited the precision with which fuel could be regulated. The E-TEC injector would overcome this limitation by the use of an energized voice coil to control both phases of injector operation.
    Bombardier, who purchased Johnson and Evinrude assets a few months after OMC’s latest owner declared it bankrupt in December 2000 and closed it down, was a natural company to take the helm. They built a state-of-the-art plant in Wisconsin and developed very high-technology systems for current and future outboard engines. Having the assets and experience with high performance two-stroke and four-stroke engines gave them the ability to hit the ground running with the E-TEC, the successor to FICHT.

    Like OMC before them, Bombardier knew the benefits to boaters of retaining the lightweight two-stroke engine platform. BRP is well-versed in the development and manufacture of high-performance, lightweight engines covering a broad spectrum of applications. Additionally, BRP had the experience and financial leverage to pursue a revolutionary path that would ultimately change the way people viewed the future of outboard engines.

    While the development and introduction of large, four-stroke engines may have presented an easier trajectory to follow, Evinrude was at a point where it needed a product that would be a standout in the industry, something unique, and to provide a real advantage to boaters in terms of fuel economy, performance, and maintenance. They had to develop an engine that would make boaters instantly understand the advantages of owning such a product. In an industry populated by four-stroke engines - all with the inherent weight and maintenance penalties associated with that design, Evinrude chose the more challenging path of advancing the direct-injected two-stroke engine, which would provide the advantages that go along with that engine platform.

    BRP keenly understood the advantages of a two-stroke engine versus its four-stroke counterparts. And although there were challenges ahead, the decision to commit to the two-stroke engine configuration was an easy one. Former Evinrude Product Manager, Karl Sandstrom explains:

    “BRP realized very early on that there were some rather distinct and significant advantages to pursuing the Direct Injection two-stroke path for Evinrude Outboards. Namely, superior torque, greater fuel efficiency, vastly reduced maintenance requirements, as well as lower emissions. Emissions compliance was never in question, as the DI technology, contrary to popular belief, is actually advantaged in terms of reportable emissions. In fact, the technology is so efficient that the latest Evinrude E-TEC G2 engines produce up to 75% fewer emissions than competitive 4-stroke outboard engines, making them the cleanest emissions gasoline outboards in the industry. However, they also anticipated that consumer perception would be that 4-stroke technology was the only "clean" technology, since emissions compliant, Direct Injection was a relatively new concept and technology to the average consumer. That being said, the decision to pursue the Direct Injection two-stroke path was consistent with BRP's culture and philosophy. Go with the technology that is best for the product's application and the user's experience."

    "Today, Evinrude E-TEC G2 outboard engines are the embodiment of that vision and philosophy. Simply put, the E-TEC Direct Injection technology results in an outboard engine that provides the consumer with an enhanced and better boating experience. Superior torque for quicker holeshots and greater acceleration mean you can pull skiers, tubers, and boards with ease. You can plow through heavy sea conditions with confidence without having to "row" the throttles back and forth. Greater fuel efficiency not only means lower operating costs and fewer fill-ups, but it also means extended range, making it possible to go further and reach that desired destination that lesser efficient four-stroke engines could not make possible. Consumers also told BRP that they viewed typically required maintenance items such as 20-hour check-ups and annual tune-ups as a "hassle" that they wish were not required, so all E-TEC outboard engines are designed to take the hassle out of the ownership experience whenever possible. Maintenance items such as annual water pump replacements, gear lube, and spark plug changes were no longer required. And because the E-TEC technology is not a four-stroke, there are no crankcase oil changes to deal with.”

    In the beginning, the E-TEC was little understood by the public and even many experienced boaters. The FICHT engines had a very short life in the retail market, and the unfamiliarity with those engines combined with the dissolution of OMC left open an inevitable question: Is the E-TEC basically FICHT 2.0? Not at all. As a matter of fact, they’re significantly different in a very critical way. And although FICHT technology played a role in its development, we should outline the key difference between these two direct-injection systems.

    Key Largo, Florida: Test boats ready for a full day of testing at the 2006 press event for the v6 E-TEC engine launch. Naturally, I gravitated to the triple-engine Wellcraft immediately.
    The FICHT direct fuel injection system relied on a computerized engine management system that controls the fuel injectors, electrical system, and even the oiling system. Fuel is injected into the combustion chamber at high pressure in a highly atomized state, resulting in a much more complete combustion cycle, reducing hydrocarbons and other emissions. Unlike traditional two-stroke engines, oil is injected directly onto the bearings and in varying amounts, depending on engine RPM and throttle position. This is more of a ‘direct lubrication’ situation, and with a much more precise oil metering system, far less oil is ultimately consumed. It was an extremely promising system that made an industry-shaking introduction, but OMC would go out of business before its FICHT outboards could be further refined.

    When discussing the FICHT engines, it is important to understand that the primary objective of that platform was to meet emissions requirements. Since the development of the FICHT technology for outboard engine use posed new technological challenges, the overall user experience of owning and operating the engine (such as engine noise, for example) had to become secondary to the primary goals of achieving emissions compliance.

    The FICHT system would usher the two-stroke outboard into California Air Resources Board (C.A.R.B.) emissions compliance, which was stricter than the EPA 2006 regulations, however the technology was incapable of achieving the more-strict Three Star emissions rating that was proposed for the near future. The E-TEC is not only capable of meeting the Three Star Ultra-Clean rating, but it can also meet proposed future regulations.

    As far as emissions compliance, the E-TEC is sitting very comfortably where it is, as it is, and is in absolutely no danger of being killed off by emissions regulations. Furthermore, the E-TEC engines are among the cleanest-running outboards in production. The EPA awarded Evinrude the very first Clean Air Award (US-EPA Clean Air Excellence Award) ever to be given to an engine manufacturer due to the fact that E-TEC tested cleaner than the existing four-stroke outboard motors and it also produced fewer exhaust particulates compared to four-stroke engines.

    I was able to discuss details of the Evinrude E-TEC engine design goals with former Evinrude Product Manager, Karl Sandstrom. Karl played a key role in setting the parameters for the E-TEC engine series, such as power curve and weight targets, with the ultimate goal of increasing all attributes of the owner experience - not only for the engine’s actual use but its maintenance. Most of us know that there’s much more to owning and operating an outboard engine than just its power and performance.

    For those of you that do not know, Karl is a Scream And Fly member that runs an E-TEC-powered STV. And while the E-TEC was not designed to be a race engine, it certainly delivers the kind of power-per-pound that a high performance, lightweight hull requires without sacrificing any of the attributes of easy ownership associated with the E-TEC engines. It really is quite remarkable that this setup would be just as easy to own as if it were a smaller E-TEC engine on a pontoon boat.

    The design goals for the E-TEC would not provide benefits in some areas at the expense of compromises elsewhere. With the E-TEC, there were to be no compromises anywhere; the ownership experience had to fulfill goals in every area of operation: power, overall performance, fuel efficiency, reliability, ease of maintenance, and of course, emissions compliance both now and in the future. The goals for ownership experience would comprise every aspect of the E-TEC’s design, which makes the development of new features a much more difficult task. All aspects of the engine had to be perfect the first time, not on subsequent revisions.

    Back in 2006, when I had my first experiences with the Evinrude E-TEC, I had the very same questions that most of you did, and still might have: what exactly is an E-TEC? Is it fancy marketing for what is a newer version of FICHT? That was a rumor for years, and it was one of primary motivations for my interest in the research for this article. I would learn that there is so much about the E-TEC that I did not know, and the more I learned, the more I felt the need for an article such as this.

    Comments 19 Comments
    1. baja200merk's Avatar
      baja200merk -
      Nice job good read
    1. CRH1's Avatar
      CRH1 -


      Looking forward to part 2
    1. Instigator's Avatar
      Instigator -
      Nicely done Greg.

      The G-2 is the mack daddy and cant wait ti read about it.
      It is the "starboard starboard motor" and is amazing that anyone would make the investment to make that motor.

      Thank you.

      Gary
    1. DanUmbarger's Avatar
      DanUmbarger -
      Great read Greg, can't wait for part2...Thanks
    1. mjw930's Avatar
      mjw930 -
      Greg,

      Would it be safe to say the only thing that holds the G2 or the E-TEC in general back is the lack of a lower unit suitable for surfacing applications, costs aside?
    1. David Borg's Avatar
      David Borg -
      Thank you Greg. Great read
    1. Scream And Fly's Avatar
      Scream And Fly -
      Quote Originally Posted by mjw930 View Post
      Greg,

      Would it be safe to say the only thing that holds the G2 or the E-TEC in general back is the lack of a lower unit suitable for surfacing applications, costs aside?
      I think that could be accurate, however, as I researched the G2 I learned that the current Lightning II lower unit is tested at over 90 MPH, and can run surfaced. Not like a Sportmaster of course, however unofficially, it has run over 100 MPH without modification. Never know what the future brings, though!
    1. Scream And Fly's Avatar
      Scream And Fly -
      Quote Originally Posted by David Borg View Post
      Thank you Greg. Great read
      Thank you David, I really appreciate you taking the time to read it

      Greg
    1. Scream And Fly's Avatar
      Scream And Fly -
      Quote Originally Posted by Instigator View Post
      Nicely done Greg.

      The G-2 is the mack daddy and cant wait ti read about it.
      It is the "starboard starboard motor" and is amazing that anyone would make the investment to make that motor.

      Thank you.

      Gary
      Thank you so much Gary. I knew you would be interested in this article. The G2 is really a different outboard in most respects, which is one reason I decided to make the G2 an entirely separate part to this. Originally, the G2 was going to be incorporated into this article, but it really deserves its own feature article. I had great fun with the G2s at the press event. The steering system and network link (along other things) is really revolutionary.

      Greg
    1. Scream And Fly's Avatar
      Scream And Fly -
      Quote Originally Posted by DanUmbarger View Post
      Great read Greg, can't wait for part2...Thanks
      Thank you so much Dan! Part 2 is really where most of the content will be.

      Greg
    1. Scream And Fly's Avatar
      Scream And Fly -
      Quote Originally Posted by baja200merk View Post
      Nice job good read

      Quote Originally Posted by CRH1 View Post


      Looking forward to part 2
      Thank you so much guys!

      Greg
    1. Knut74's Avatar
      Knut74 -
      Read this and really enjoyed it. Very well written Greg, can’t wait to read second part! Good job!
    1. SALSTRIP's Avatar
      SALSTRIP -
      Absolutely the best article I have seen on these engines , can't wait for the G2 info in Part 2.Thanks for posting it up its Awesome
    1. Laker's Avatar
      Laker -
      Fantastic Virus!!
    1. Scream And Fly's Avatar
      Scream And Fly -
      Quote Originally Posted by Laker View Post
      Fantastic Virus!!
      Thank you so much buddy, I appreciate it very much! I knew you would be reading this for sure.
    1. powerabout's Avatar
      powerabout -
      great stuff
      first time I have read anywhere the difference between a ficht injector/emm and an etec version.
    1. Knut74's Avatar
      Knut74 -
      When is Part 2 due? Can’t wait to read it.....
    1. JP Love's Avatar
      JP Love -
      Verry nice reading... Art of engineering.. Thank's S&F..
    1. JP Love's Avatar
      JP Love -
      Best technical infos from old and G2 systems...
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