(No More) Smoke on the Water: Outboard Motors Go Electric
It’s easy to forget just how deeply the energy economy and infrastructure penetrates into our lives. It’s easy to be aware of our cars and trucks, the cost of gasoline and the pollution we can observe being pumped into the atmosphere. It’s much more difficult to conceptualise the power consumption and pollution tied to our home’s electricity and gas use, and even more difficult to picture the energy demands of areas outside our normal everyday life experience. One example is on the water: Boats of all shapes and sizes, from big container ships to small personal crafts powered by a standard outboard motor need energy and produce pollution, fouling our water ecosystems and stressing already stressed natural resources – yet most of us never consider the humble outboard motor when we think about ways to reduce energy use and make the world run more cleanly. The good news, though, is that this is about to change with the introduction of practical electric and solar outboard motors.
Energy Saving Products Everywhere: More Choice, More Power
In our homes and personal lives we have many choices that can impact the world’s energy savings and our own personal carbon footprint. We can choose to install an EcoSwitch or other energy saving products in our house. We can choose to drive a hybrid or electric car, or to forego a car altogether. This kind of personal power allows us to have a direct impact on the cost of our lifestyle on the world’s resources.
With the new models of electric outboard motor, we now have that choice when on the water as well. In the past, electric outboard motors were considered too weak for practical use beyond emergency propulsion and very lightweight crafts, but today’s models offer thrust and speed comparable to a conventional 30 horsepower engine, with up to 300 kg of static thrust. That’s an outboard motor you can even water ski with, and it’s an outboard motor that doesn’t produce any greenhouse gases as exhaust – or any exhaust at all, for that matter! All while enjoying speeds up to 50km/hour. Running on rechargeable batteries means freedom from fuel and the flexibility to introduce other power saving products like a solar panel charger, to sever your link to the traditional power grid completely.
Solar Power on the Rise
In fact, solar-powered electric outboard motors are also becoming more widely available and more practical. At the moment the most powerful solar-powered outboard motors only attain a fraction of the power of battery-powered motors (typically in the 2 horsepower range) and are only useful, in practical terms, for inflatables and small dinghies. It’s only a matter of time, however, before solar-powered electric motors power up to more useful levels, and even today they are incredibly useful as backup thrust or for your smaller craft.
Advantages of Electric Outboard Motors
Aside from the environmental and energy saving possibilities, electric outboard motors have many advantages over petrol-powered motors:
- Noise: Electric outboard motors are quiet, humming along without the constant, headache-inducing roar of traditional motors.
- Smoke: Aside from imagining the pollution being spewed into the air, the smoke and smell of exhaust is no longer going to sting eyes and embed itself into clothes.
- Fire: No matter how well built or carefully handled, any engine running off petrol has fire as a possibility, but this is no longer a worry with an electric outboard motor.
- Spills: You’ll no longer need to worry about handling dangerous petrol and spilling fuel everywhere – or storing petrol onboard for longer journeys and emergencies.
Adding to this the clear conscience of someone who is actively making their lives more energy efficient, and you have an ideal situation for any water enthusiast to reduce their personal carbon footprint and bring the same future-oriented world view they employ in their homes to their time on the water. As time goes on we’re enjoying more and more options to help us in the battle against waste and pollution – often in areas we don’t even think about.