Electric Outboards - Starter Guide
ADVANTAGES OF GOING ELECTRIC
So why would you want an electric outboard? Petrol outboards have been widely used for decades, and sometimes when there is only one option we start to ignore certain deficiencies. Petrol outboards can be noisy, smelly, dirty and heavy. Now at this stage it’s important to say that we here at Force 4 still very much like petrol outboards. A modern 4 stroke petrol outboard can be a truly wonderful device, but we have all been there, trying to start a petrol engine that just won’t go no matter what settings you tweak. We’ve all spilled fuel while filling, and most of us have probably cursed the noise they make, particularly on longer trips in the dinghy.
An electric outboard offers simple, quiet service. In our experience, when you twist the throttle they just work (starting becomes a thing of the past). Maintenance is vastly reduced, with no fuel to go off, carburettor jets to block or oil to mix. They can also offer weight advantages, and while we must factor in the weight of the battery for a fair comparison, the fact that you can split the engine and battery in most cases mean you can move two smaller, lighter items instead of one big heavy one - a real bonus when handing an engine from boat to tender for example.
TYPES OF ELECTRIC OUTBOARD
Electric outboards fall into two main camps - those with a built in battery (such as the Torqeedo range) and those without (such as our Motorguide or Minn Kota range). Those with built in battery offer a similar user experience to a standard outboard, the engine is self contained and no external battery is required. They offer similar power levels to a small outboard and make a genuine alternative to them. Electric outboards without a built in battery must be powered by a separate battery, so this must be factored into both the purchase price and the installation. These are generally less powerful, and ideal for trolling or for moving a vessel slowly around sheltered water such as small fishing boats on inland lakes. They are generally not as powerful as either an electric motor with a built-in battery or a petrol outboard.
HOW TO CHARGE
Needless to say electric outboards need to be charged. For boats that frequent marinas this is rarely an issue, but this consideration must be factored in when deciding what engine to choose next.
A high performance electric out board such as a Torqeedo will generally be more to purchase in the first place, but if you factor in expenses such as annual servicing and fuel, most customers generally find they recoup the difference in a few years. This, combined with the advantages of an electric outboard listed above, makes them a real growth area of the marine market.