Alternative Outboards

By: Zuzana Prochazka

QuestionI want to set a good example for my young kids about respecting the environment they boat in. I’m considering alternative outboard technology. What are my options?

AnswerAh, the outboard — a necessary but often maligned piece of equipment. The new generation of outboards is much quieter, efficient and cleaner burning than previous generations, but if you want to go a step further, you have options.

Lehr, the propane outboard company, has models of 2.5, 5, 9.9 and 15 hp. The engines come with long or short shafts, and the larger ones even have a remote electric start so you can put them in a boat with a center console and a wheel. The motors are powered by propane bottles. Two of the models can run on the small 1-pound camping bottles that you screw right into the motor. The larger ones need a 10- or 20-pound propane tank that you put in the boat.

How long do they run? For example, the 9.9 burns approximately a gallon of propane per hour at wide open throttle (4,600 rpm) or about 0.44 gph a 3,000 rpm. Depending on the size of the tank, your speed, and the sea and wind conditions, you’ll be able to run from five to 14 hours per tank.

Propane is cheaper than gas, burns cleaner and doesn’t emit any pollution into the air or water. The patented fuel-metering system replaces the carburetor or fuel injection on gas-powered outboards. With Lehr’s pressurized system and no choke, starting is easier regardless of temperature. There are also no worries over winterizing, or storing your outboard when old fuel gums up the carburetor.

Another option is to go electric. Torqeedo made headlines a few years back with its German-engineered electric models, and over the years, the offerings have grown and improved. The advantage is that electric motors are much quieter than either gas- or propane-powered engines.

Torqeedo sells a range of sizes, from a tiny kayak motor to an 80 hp version. For example, the Travel 1003 is a waterproof motor that is roughly the equivalent of a 3 hp gas engine and can power a boat up to 1.5 tons. It weighs 31 pounds with the integrated lithium-ion battery and can be carried easily. It comes with either a long or short shaft and has an onboard computer that uses GPS to calculate your remaining range. At slow speed, half throttle and full throttle, the 1003 will run 10.5, 3.5 and 0.5 hours, respectively, at speeds of 2 to 5 knots. From fully discharged, the charging time is 15 hours, and you can just disconnect the battery and take it home to charge.

The next step up is the Cruise T 2.0 (5 hp) and 4.0 (8 hp). Depending on the horsepower, the T models use one or two batteries — either Torqeedo’s proprietary brand or AGMs. The 2.0 weighs just under 40 pounds while the 4.0 is 1 pound heavier. Of course, this doesn’t take into account the batteries, which will need to be stored in the dinghy and can weigh in excess of 80 pounds.

The 2.0 will power a boat up to three tons at speeds of 1.5 to 6.5 knots depending on throttle. The 4.0 will power a boat up to four tons from 3 to 11 knots for one to eight hours, also depending on throttle.


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