Cox Powertrain’s soon to be launched 300hp diesel outboard is being put through its paces at the company’s UK production facility.

According to Principal Engineer, Vince Parry, the engineers at Cox have developed a testing process for the outboard to be run through to ensure that, once the engines go to market, there are no faults or failures.

Vince joined Cox Powertrain in 2017 back when there were a mere 50 or so employees working on the initial development of the diesel outboard.

The CVs of many of Cox’s key employees show time spent at well-known automotive brands including Jaguar Land Rover, Cosworth and Lotus, and Parry himself has worked at companies such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Cummins.

The majority of all the testing happens at the testing facility at the headquarters in Shoreham, UK and it is here that Vince describes their duty is to ‘test, and to essentially try to break the engine by pushing it to its limits.” These tests are usually carried out in test cells which feature water tanks for the engine to be submerged in, and dynamometers for measuring the torque and the power in different controlled conditions, with varying loads. Some tests also need to be conducted on the water to see how the engine works in unison with the boat itself. However, Vince points out that often test tanks are the more reliable testing method as it is possible to control environmental conditions, such as the water temperature, and run the tests for a longer period of time.

Elsewhere in the facility, individual engine parts undergo tests to assess their durability to give an understanding of how this would affect the life of the engine. For example, in one of the testing cells, a water pump will run continuously, while being lifted intermittently out of the water, to test how long it would last in challenging conditions at sea. “This is a vital aspect in the testing procedure to ensure that our engines are efficient with no faults or issues once they are with our distributors and, most importantly our end users.

The testing which is carried out provides vital data and findings which are sent to the engineers for analysis and for them to derive a solution. Cox aims to pre-empt issues that might occur during production and once they are with the end-users. As Vince says, “We are engineering-led so we fix things before they get to later stages.” Vince also points out that “it is essential that we fix something at the design and testing stage as it will be significantly more expensive to put the problem right once it is with the customers.”

Being designed from a blank piece of paper, specifically for marine propulsion, is something which hasn’t been seen before in diesel outboards and is one of the reasons which makes the CXO300 so unique. However, this does open up complexities and challenges for Cox, as we have no benchmarks for testing, Vince explains. “As we are developing something new, we have to be particularly thorough, especially in our early stages of engineering and testing,” Parry says, In the early stages of development, Cox engineers used the design, failure, modes and effects analysis (DFMEA) process to examine all the potential issues that could stop an engine functioning. This enabled the team to ensure these problems do not occur, explained Parry. “By applying engineering thought upfront, we tend to head off a lot of the major failures.”

“We are very close now to our engines going into production so it’s crunch time for the Test and Development team,” explains Parry. “2020 is going to be a momentous year for Cox Powertrain, one which many of us have been waiting to see happen for a few years now.” Even when Cox begins production, the Test and Development team will continue to work hard in improving the CXO300 even further.

COX Powertrain has further announced that assembly of the CXO300, will proceed as planned at its Shoreham-by-Sea headquarters, while the company’s ramp-up production schedule will begin in Q3 when supply chains are hoped to be operating nearer pre-Covid-19 levels. This had been slated for June.

The decision by the British diesel marine engineering specialist to proceed with assembly will ensure that its global distributors will take delivery of the first engines off the assembly lines, enabling them to run their all-important 2020 customer demonstration programmes as intended.

In a company statement issued to its customers and suppliers, Cox Powertrain’s CEO, Tim Routsis said:

“You will be aware that now is the time we had planned to be in volume production of the CXO300. Cox’s supply chain has, in common with most OEMs, been affected to a greater or lesser degree by the entirely understandable measures governments are taking to mitigate the effects of the disease. Although we have stocks of most of the components necessary to commence production, we have however, faced a few supply chain issues which we have been able to overcome and find alternative solutions.

We have considered carefully all the options, giving appropriate weighting to the health needs of our staff and the longer term needs of Cox’s customers and supply chain and have concluded that the best solution for everyone is to commence engine assembly, but re-schedule the ramp-up period to reflect the capacity in the supply chain.”

Cox’s production facilities are sized to deliver up to one engine per hour. This capacity will enable them to fulfil the planned first 12 months of demand despite the slower first three month run rate. Cox anticipates being able to fulfil its first year’s demand as promised, notwithstanding the slower ramp up period.

By Jake Frith