Answers to the Most Common Questions about Electric Powered Boats
Q. Can my boat be re-powered with an electric propulsion system?
A. The short answer is yes! Electric-only motor systems and electric-hybrid systems that can replace gasoline or diesel-powered engines are available for nearly every vessel. The longer answer resides in how you plan to use your boat. Repowering with electric works well for displacement hulls (i.e. sailboats), semi-displacement hulls (slow trawlers), pontoon boats, and dinghies or small tenders. Planing hulls (speed boats) also can be repowered with electric depending on space available for batteries.
Q. What are the costs of going with an electric motor in my boat versus replacing or repairing the diesel or gasoline engine?
A. The cost of replacing a diesel or gasoline engine with an electric motor of comparable output capacity (kilowatts to horsepower) is on par with the purchase price of an existing diesel or gasoline engine. Where some cost savings can be realized is in the installation. Nearly all of the 24- and 48-volt systems used to replace motors from 2- up to 40-horsepower can be installed by a hands-on boat owner or a qualified marine technician. The installation of higher voltage systems, or hybrid electric systems that include the use of a generator, must be installed by a qualified marine electrician. The battery bank and charger(s) are the other upfront cost in converting your vessel to electric propulsion. The capacity of your battery bank is the determining factor for the range your vessel will be able to travel on its electric propulsion system; the greater the battery capacity, the longer the range and the higher the cost. Depending on battery chemistry—lead-acid or lithium ion—a properly maintained battery bank can last between three and 10 years. There are no maintenance costs with electric, unlike diesel or gasoline that require oil changes and coolant system service.
Q. Is converting my sailboat’s engine to electric the right decision?
A. This question can be answered by the total diesel or gasoline fuel you’ve used in the last year or the most fuel you’ve used at one time, and how many times have you used the maximum amount of fuel on board. For example:
- If you used 10 gallons of fuel last year and went sailing 30 times, go electric.
- If you use two gallons of fuel at one time, twice last year and sent sailing 30 times, go electric.
- If you used 10 gallons of fuel and went sailing three times, go with a combustion engine.
- If you used 30 gallons of fuel and went sailing 30 times, go with a combustion engine.
Q. How far can I go with my electric motor?
A. We have customers who are circumnavigating with their electric propulsion systems. We also have customers who like to motor at low speeds for hours at time. It all depends on the size of your battery bank, if you have alternative power generation sources (solar, wind, or fuel driven generator) aboard, and how you use your boat. Motoring at full throttle with electric is just like motoring at full throttle with diesel or gasoline—you will quickly deplete your battery bank or drain your fuel tank. Backing off to a comfortable RPM and a moderate to slower speed with extend your run time by hours.
Q. How many other electric boats are out there?
A. More than you might think. There are hundreds of thousands of Torqeedo units powering vessels, worldwide from dinghies and tenders to runabouts, pontoons, cruisers and workboats. The Electric Yacht, an inboard and saildrive manufacturer, has sold motors to more than 500 vessel owners for repower. Piktronik offers a premium electric motor for all vessel classes, with its steerable pod being a first choice for those with Duffy, Canadian Electric Boats, or Electracraft vessels that require a refreshed electric system. Bellmarine electric and hybrid propulsion systems have been a mainstream product in Europe for years and are gaining traction in the North American market.
Q. I’m worried about return on investment (ROI) if I repower my boat with electric. What can I expect if I try to sell my boat with an electric motor?
A. Remember the first time you considered the use of electric on your boat and how enthusiastic you were about it. The person with that same reaction will be the person to buy your boat in the future. For example, if you were selling your electric re-powered boat today and 10 people looked at it, eight of them will try to work you and say the boat is limited, two will say they like it, and one of them will offer full price. This is exactly what happens with any used boat that’s offered on the market. Those who are limited in their views will talk it down, but the person who understands that a vessel powered with electric is very capable and that it meets their needs will want it now and pay for it.
Q. Do you have a location where I can see an electric motor in a boat and try it out? How do I know the Electric Marina is legitimate?
A. To keep our operating overhead low in order to pass additional incentives to customer, the Electric Marina doesn’t maintain an actual marina. Chances are we have helped an owner repower a vessel in your area and often we can put you into direct contact with an Electric Marina customer who is more than willing (and enthusiastic!) to share their repowering experience and show off their vessel. The Electric Marina has distribution agreements in place with Yanmar Mastry Engine Center, Torqeedo, the Electric Yacht, Royal Battery Distributors, Battle Born Batteries, and Transfluid Industrial and Marine, to name a few. We can supply references upon request.