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May 28, 2010

Pods or Props?

Pod propulsion represents the most significant step forward in boating since the propeller

Pod Pluses
Pod propulsion brings many advantages to boating and precious few disadvantages. About the only disadvantage might be that in some cases the draft of a vessel may be deeper with pods than with standard props, shafts and struts.

• Thrust parallel to the water's surface for the least misdirected thrust. See illustration.

• Ease of maneuvering: With the joystick, you can move your boat forward, backward, sideways or diagonally against wind and current. A child can do it!

• Significant drag reduction from rudder removal: The pods move independently, providing both thrust and steering. You no longer need rudders.

• Shear result - one of the most common fears. All pod systems have been engineered to shear off cleanly in case of a catastrophic collision, leaving the bottom of the boat with full watertight integrity. You can't say that about a standard prop and strut, especially when the strut pushes up through the hull.
• Single-lever control: All systems can be configured to throttle and synchronize both (or multiple) engines by using one control lever.

• Auto sync: All three electronic control systems provide automatic synchronization of engines.

• Auto trim: Zeus and ZF come with trim tabs built into the pods. Volvo Penta sells QL trim tabs separately. All three can provide automatic optimum trim depending on speed, load and conditions.

• Dynamic positioning: At the push of a button, software can automatically keep your boat within a few feet of any desired geographic position and on the same heading. You won't have to drop an anchor when bottomfishing again. And you won't spend a half-hour jockeying around waiting for a bridge to open. Just push the button and keep an eye out.

• Proportional steering: When cruising, software controls how sharply you turn based on speed. Want a tighter arc? Slow down a little.

• Cost: In most cases, the cost of pod drives is similar to the cost of standard propulsion. While the equipment is more expensive, the engine and drive installation requires only a small fraction of the man-hours that standard propulsion does, making the cost difference close to a wash.

• Exhaust through drive: Exhaust exits underwater through the drive and bubbles to the surface far behind the boat, resulting in a cleaner, quieter ride.

• Average 50 percent quieter: Underwater exhaust combined with the massive rubber gaskets sandwiching the pod and hull together mean less vibration and less noise.

• Increased living space: Pods mostly live under the aft deck, freeing up what used to be an engine room for an additional cabin, tackle storage, disco or whatever.

• Average 20 percent higher top speed: Parallel thrust and less underwater appendage drag result in a higher top speed for less horsepower.

• Average 30 percent greater fuel economy: More efficient counter-rotation dual props, parallel thrust and less drag mean greater fuel economy.
• Average 40 percent greater range: Thirty percent increased fuel economy equates to roughly 40 percent greater range.

• Joystick maneuvering: Even someone who has no boating experience can learn to handle the helm like a pro with only minutes of instruction.

Recently, Volvo Penta created a program to allow boat owners to repower vessels equipped with standard props and shafts with its IPS propulsion. Watch out, world. Pods make driving boats fun again!