A [1st-time] Buyer’s Guide To Electric Outboard Motors

Electric outboard motors are an emerging marine technology that has made significant strides in the last five years.

While there is some way to go, the lower-power models are slowly making inroads into the market. When viewed over the long term, make a compelling case for their selection.

First-time electric outboard motor buyers should research the topic before purchasing one. They must first justify why electric outboard motors are more suitable than an equivalently powered (lower cost) gas-powered unit and decide which model is optimal for their circumstances.

Choosing an electric outboard engine is not yet an automatic choice. Moreover, the current products are more expensive than gas-powered units.

There is relatively little after-sales expertise in the market. But the technology is expanding rapidly. Eventually, high-powered models will be introduced, which are superior to gas-powered engines.

✔️ Reasons To Buy An Electric Outboard Motor

The reasons for selecting an electric outboard motor are as follows:

1️⃣ To protect against future gas price increases.
2️⃣ For ease of maintenance.
3️⃣ They are quiet and produce no vibration or smelly exhaust.
4️⃣ To become more eco-friendly by reducing your carbon footprint.

To Protect Against Future Gas Price Increases

Several factors may influence the future cost of oil (thus, gas) that include.

  • The OPEC signatories reducing oil production (as happened in 2022)
  • Major wars affecting supply lines and market sentiment.
  • If the dollar value reduces, the cost of imported gas increases.
  • Other physical, political, or economic instances.

Long-term gas prices will always increase. For example, before 1972, the gas price was $0.38 per gallon; after the 1973 OPEC oil crisis, it rose to $0.55 per gallon. So since 1970, the gas prices we pay in America have increased by 1,182.27%, and this trend will continue.

Purchasing an electric outboard motor insulates you from this variable. It means you can continue to enjoy your boating even when others can’t afford it.

For Ease Of Maintenance

Compared to internal combustion outboard motors, electric units are virtually maintenance-free.

There are components on an internal combustion outboard motor that need regular maintenance. There are also common failure points described in the list below.

Internal Combustion Outboard Motor
Electric Motor Mounted On Top Of The Shaft
Electric Motor “POD” Mounted On The Bottom Of The Shaft (Trolling Motors)
Regular Engines Servicing
Required as per the manufacturer’s instructions
At much longer intervals
At much longer intervals
Service The Ignition System
Yes, change the spark plugs, and check the leads and coils
No
No
Service The Gas (Fuel) and the fuel injection system
Clean fuel filters, check fuel pump
No
No
Service The Water-Cooling System
The impeller must be changed often. This requires extensive man-hours to remove the lower unit.
Air-cooled (easy-to-change air filters)
Air-cooled (easy-to-change air filters)
Service The Gearbox
Yes
The unit is less complicated. Does'nt need to switch forward and reverse gears. Motor direction is simply reversed.
No gearbox because the motor is directly connected to the propellor shaft
Propellor prone to damage
Yes
Yes
Yes
Steering System requires servicing
Yes
Yes
Yes
The electrical system requires servicing
Yes
Yes
Yes

They Are Quiet, Produce No Vibration, or Smelly Exhaust

Electric boat motors provide a better experience compared to gas-powered outboard engines.

They are almost silent. You can hear the fish eagles and hold a conversation with other passengers.

There are no smelly exhaust gasses, and electric outboard motors are virtually vibrationless.

Electric propulsion gives you much greater torque levels than a gas outboard equivalent. It means they speed up out of the “hole” much faster.

To Become More Ecofriendly By Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Whatever your perspective on climate change is, I don’t think anyone disputes the fact that the earth needs help.

One of the ways to achieve this on a personal level is to reduce your carbon footprint. The price of electric vehicles (and outboard engines) continues to reduce. Restricting the use of emission-producing internal combustion engines is becoming more viable.

✖️ Reasons To NOT Buy An Electric Motor

In the interest of fairness, the following section discusses the downsides of owning an electric motor. It also provides information on the difficulties with the current technology.

Electric Motors Are Expensive

The cost must include the price of batteries and related hardware. This makes electric motors cost 80% more than the equal gas-powered unit.

The saving in cost of consumables (gas, oil, and servicing) is much less. Electric outboards are estimated to only pay for themselves after 300 hours of use. Of course, if there is a spike in the gas price, breakeven will happen earlier.

Range Is Less With An Electric Outboard Motor

Electric cars have a regeneration feature. This is used to power an onboard generator that charges the batteries while the vehicle moves. Boats do not have this capability.

Boats don’t have this. The only way to provide charge “on the go” is to install solar panels or a wind turbine-powered generator.

Solar Panels

Solar panels have several disadvantages, including the following.

  • They use up a lot of space (real estate) on the boat, which would normally be used for other purposes.
  • They work optimally in full sun conditions; under clouds, they are less effective, and at night, they produce no charge.

Wind Turbine Generator

Unless the weather conditions produce constant wind or the boat travels fast enough to generate enough power, wind turbines are generally inefficient electrical producers.

There Is Less Experience With Electric Outboard Motors

One of the reasons you are reading this article is that it is difficult to find electric outboard motors specialists with good knowledge. At and at the moment, the industry is “feeling its way” to understanding what the best solutions are.

High-power electric motors will gain more traction in the boating world. This will cause the situation to change; however, the depth of knowledge available with gas-powered engines will take some time to be matched.

🛥️ What Are The Different Electric Outboard Motor Sizes?

The biggest commercially available outboard motor is the EVOY Pro which generates the equivalent power of a 150hp engine.

This system costs more than the equal gas-powered outboard engines. In addition, the battery packs impose hefty weight penalties on the boat.

EVOY is working on the next iteration. The company claims this engine will produce the equal of 450hp continuous power. The power will also peak for short periods at substantially higher levels.

As technology develops, these issues will be overcome, and prices will ultimately fall.

Higher-powered electric boat motors are becoming available. Despite this, the technology is not set to replace gas-powered engines in the short term. However, it does show a lot of promise for the future.

At the other end of the range, lower-powered units are already a viable alternative to gas-powered engines.

This size engine is generally purchased by anglers and owners of open sea vessels who use them as the power source of their tender.

In this category, the required power output ranges between equivalent gas-powered ratings of 1hp to 90hp.

🧑‍⚖️ Purchasing Advice For An Electric Outboard Motor

Electric outboards are new territory for most people (even the sales staff at the dealerships). Therefore, first-time buyers must understand as much as possible regarding their circumstances and needs.

You should consider the following when choosing an electric outboard motor.

Choose The Right Power Level

You mustn’t end up in a situation with insufficient power available to avoid danger.

A rule of thumb is that 2 lbs. of thrust should be produced by the motor for every 100 lbs. of fully loaded weight of the boat. The power which is required increases if the sea conditions are not calm.

Choose An Electric Outboard Motor With Sufficient Range

Many electric outboard motors are equipped with an internal lithium-ion battery.

Boats used as tenders may transit open sea conditions for more extended periods. These must have a sufficient range (with a 50% margin) to travel both ways – unless they can be recharged at the shore.

When choosing the best engine for your needs, ensure that it produces enough range. The combination of the internal and extended batteries will affect the range.

Most electric outboard boat motors are equipped with range meters showing how much distance can still be run on that charge. My recommendation is that this is an essential requirement.

Another aspect of the battery’s range is choosing one that supports fast charging times.

Research The Different Electric Outboard Motors

Don’t rely on a salesperson with vested interests to teach you about electric motors. They will often bad-mouth competing companies with false information.

Read the boat forums and other boaters’ experiences with the different brands.

Only Buy From Established Brands

Don’t buy an electric outboard motor from a new brand that has yet to build a reputation.

This may seem harsh to new players. You want to be assured that the manufacturer will stay in business and can, honor the warranty and continue to provide product support.

Judge The Information Provided By A Salesperson

This may seem a little off-topic. However, when purchasing an expensive item such as an electric boat motor, carefully judge how the sales staff treat you. You should also test how knowledgeable they are.

If they seem to be only regurgitating information you can read from a brochure, proceed with caution.

You can purchase from online stores (Amazon). But I recommend finding a local boat shop that can provide after-sales service.

An excellent method to check the boat shop’s ability is to visit its maintenance department. Then, when you talk to the workshop manager – you will quickly get an idea of their level of expertise.

🧑‍🔧 Which Electric Outboard Motor Brands Are Reputable?

The most reputable brands have been around for a while and have an established range of electric outboard motors.

The brands which meet these criteria (in alphabetical order, not preference.)

To help you compare these manufacturers, we have broken down the most popular side-by-side.

Torqeedo vs Minn Kota
Torqeedo ve ePropulsion
Torqeedo vs Bixby

🦾 When Should Boaters Look At More Powerful Options?

Some manufacturers are developing higher-powered engines. However, there is still a minefield of issues to resolve before they become a commercial reality.

Bigger outboard engines consume more battery power when run at high power settings. This reduces the range substantially.

The output of currently available electric outboard motors ranges from 1hp to 90hp. As discussed earlier, the rule of thumb is that the electric outboard engine should produce 2 lbs. of thrust for every 100 lbs. of loaded weight.

Higher power motors may be beneficial in the following circumstances:

1️⃣ If the electric outboard motor powers a boat in rough sea conditions.
2️⃣ If the boat regularly carries more passengers or cargo, which increases the weight above the norm.
3️⃣ A higher-power electric outboard motor will use less battery than a smaller engine if run at the same speed.

⚡ What Do Current Electric Outboard Motor Owners Use Them For?

The basic requirements of an electric outboard engine are the same, irrespective of the use.

The main considerations are that the engine must have enough power and sufficient range for your purposes.

Electric Motors Used By Anglers

Electric outboards used by anglers should have the following characteristics.

  • It must have a completely silent operation.
  • Ability to troll very slowly.
  • It must have sufficient torque to accelerate fast during fishing competitions, where you must get to the optimal fishing spot before everyone else.
  • As with any electric outboard motor, the combination of internal and external battery packs must provide sufficient range for your purposes.
  • Most anglers will use an electric outboard motor in freshwater bodies. But, if it is to be used in saltwater, you must ensure the electric outboard motor is designed to be run in saltwater conditions.

Electric Motors Suitable For Tenders

The electric outboard motors suitable for small tender boats have the following characteristics.

  • The electric outboard motor must be light enough to easily remove the tender and store (charge) in the main boat.
  • It must have more power available than the minimum calculation recommends. It ensures that it can still power the boat and provide directional control in rough water.
  • It must have enough range. My personal rule is that it must also have 50% extra capacity than your calculations allow. This ensures that you are not caught out and stranded.
  • Ensure the electric outboard motor is designed to be run in saltwater conditions. Using a motor designed for freshwater conditions in saltwater will invalidate the warranty.

🚤 Are Electric Outboard Motors Worth It?

Electric outboard motors cost more (for the engine and the batteries). However, they need less servicing and use no consumables (gas, oil, spark plugs, fuel filters, etc.). It means they will begin to cover their costs after approximately 300 hours of use.

If gas prices increase, the breakeven point will be achieved more quickly.

🐎 What Is The Highest Horsepower Electric Outboard Motor?

The highest horsepower electric outboard motors generate the same power as a 150hp engine.

Several manufacturers (EVOY being one example) are developing higher-powered models. They estimate it will produce up to the equivalent of 450 hp.

🪫 How Far Will An Electric Outboard Go?

The range of electric outboard motors depends on the following.

  • The motor’s size.
  • The installed battery capacity.
  • The weight of the passengers and “cargo” on the boat.
  • The water conditions.
  • The speed at which they are run.

Some manufacturers claim that their electric outboard engines can travel for 70 miles. These ranges are achieved at medium power settings.

✅ How Big Of An Electric Motor Do I Need?

A rule of thumb is that the outboard motor should produce 2 lbs. of thrust for each band of 100 lbs. of fully loaded weight of the boat. The power which is required increases if the sea conditions a not calm.

🗣️ Final Words

Smaller electric outboard engines have reached maturity. It makes them a viable alternative to gas-powered units. The upfront costs are higher. But at around 300 hours of running, the breakeven point will be reached, and they will cost less and be more reliable.

The same cannot be said for larger electric outboard engines. This technology still needs further development. At the moment, they are less competitive than gas-powered units.

I’m the founder and chief editor here at Kite Ship. The electrification of boating is the most exciting thing to happen to the marine industry in a generation! Welcome, and I hope that we can provide the portal you need to dive into the world of electric propulsion and power.