A key element of our goals for Sustainable Sailing (as we have hinted at many times) is going to be replacing fossil fuels with electricity with the assumption that the electricity comes from renewable resources. So this is where we are at so far:
Vida didn’t come with an outboard engine or a dinghy (at least one we think is suitable). So we have gone for an electric outboard. In many ways it seems like an obvious option. There are many obvious advantages of electric outboard motors to power a dinghy to make getting to and from the shore easy.
- Replaces petrol with (renewable) electricity. The key and obvious win, should be enough reason on it’s own. We have to massively switch away from fossil fuels as an essential response to the Climate Emergency.
- More portable. Compared to a petrol outboard engine this is so much easier to move. The battery is removable and so you end up with two parts that are both light enough for me to easily lift on and off the boat, in and out of the van, up and down the beach.
- No spills or smells. Petrol outboard engines smell, the fuel tanks smell, spills smell. Petrol gets split and smells. Electric outboards have none of these issues. you can keep them anywhere in the boat without worrying about spills, they don’t have to be kept the right way up. You don’t have to make sure you have used up all the fuel in the carburettor to avoid spills.
- Safer. No risk of explosions or fire! Petrol in enclosed spaces (like a locker, or in your vehicle travelling) is explosive.
- More reliable. Petrol outboards are notoriously high maintenance and unreliable. Always needing servicing.
- Simpler and easier. No difficult pull start, just turn on and twist the throttle. To reverse just turn the throttle the other way. Full torque immediately available without any need for chokes or warming up.
- Waterproof. The battery actually floats, not just waterproof but if you drop it in the sea it will float! Compare this to the hours of video on YouTube of people having to rebuild their petrol outboards if they get dunked.
- Silent. Especially useful for when we arrive late at night. We will be able to get our to the boat without disturbing anyone else.
- Zero maintenance. Comes with a promise of being Lifetime Maintenance free
- Speed. We are not going to be able to go anything like as fast as would be possible with a petrol outboard. The maximum size of engine for our dinghy is 15hp which will comfortably plane, the recommended size of 10hp will also plane if not fully loaded. Without paying silly money electric motors max out at about 3hp equivalent. So we will pootle rather than zoom. The only issue for us is the speed of the tide in the Menai Straits which will run faster than we can motor. We will just have pick times carefully or hug the shore to avoid the main tide.
- Range. Essentially unlimited with a petrol outboard as you can always carry extra tanks of fuel. With electric once the battery is flat you are stuck until you recharge it. The range at full speed should be about 6 nautical miles (7 miles, 11km) which can be doubled by slowing down. We are giving ourselves some comfort space by having a 2nd battery, also by having both a fast mains charger (that we can take ashore to charge at almost anywhere) and a DC charger that means we can charge efficiently on the boat.
So we have bought an Epropulsion Spirit 1kW unit with extra battery from Nestaway Boats, doing so before the recent plummeting pound was reflected in the prices. We haven’t yet used it yet so more when we have. Meanwhile have a look on YouTube to see plenty of positive experiences.