ELECTRIC BOATING JUST GOT REAL! (testing the best 5 electric motors)
We’re on the hunt for a new electric-powered dinghy. Because there are a lot of benefits when going all-electric and only a few downsides. Plus, our new catamaran will practically be a floating renewable power plant, so it seems silly not to go electric with our tender.
Our quest began last week when we compared our top choice rigid and inflatable dinghies (so far). And this week, we’re putting the 5 best electric motors we could find to the test. Because the manufacturers make a lot of claims when it comes to speed, range, and weight. But there’s only one way to know if any of them is a realistic option for our needs.
Spoiler alert, there are two that completely blew us away…and one that does 360s!
Our Tender Needs & Wants
Our new home is all about being efficient and self-reliant, using renewable energy and electric propulsion…we want our dinghy to be more of the same.
On Curiosity2, HH has built-in some super-strong carbon fiber dinghy davits than can hold an 11-foot tender with a max weight of 440lbs.
Desired Cruising Speed: 10-15 knots
I say cruising speed because with electric motors we don’t want to be at top speed all the time, that would tap our batteries out quick. Going at 50-75% will give us a lot more range. But, knowing we have that burst of power for running against a strong current or getting out of the way of a larger vessel, is priceless.
Desired Range: 20 miles
A normal day of dingy-ing around for us is anywhere between 10-20 miles (exploring, diving, grocery run…). But in these early stages, we’re trying to stay open-minded and we’re testing a wide variety of motors.
Familiar & Enjoyable, But Too Slow
Our Top Speed: 4 knots on the Highfield / 4.5 knots on the OC
Realistic Cruising Speed: 3 knots
The overall experience with the Spirit feels just like the motoring experience we’re used to, but without the motoring noise. A few things worth noting are the portable solar panel and hydrogeneration options for sailing dinghies. If you already own a 2.5hp or 3hp engine you will most likely be very pleased with this little guy.
Full Details: epropulsion.com/spirit-1
If you are in New Zealand, contact Adam at Beacon Marine: beaconmarine.nz
Portable, Powerful, Lightweight Contender
Our Top Speed: 6.7 knots on the OC
Realistic Cruising Speed: 5 knots
Looking at this setup, it’s hard to believe. Full Stop. Weighing in at half the weight of the Spirit 1.0 and yet double the power. MotoSkiff has been making tweaks and improvements and now claims to get a top speed of 12 knots. If so, this could be a serious contender and market disrupter. We hope to take it for another test spin with the newest updates before we leave New Zealand.
Full Details: motoskiff.com
Navy 3.0 Motor Weight: 24.3 kg / 53.6 lbs Navy 6.0 Motor Weight: 36 kg / 79.4 lbs
Battery Weights: E80 – 53 kg / 116.8 lbs E175 – 87 kg / 191.8 lbs
We knew these were on the heavy side for our needs, but the reality hit hard when we started setting them up. I am sure it would work great for trolling on a lake, or canal, but not so much for a mid-size tender to a sailboat.
Electric Jet Engine Dream
Our Top Speed: 19 knots on the OC
Realistic Cruising Speed: 10-15 knots
If I’m being totally honest, I really didn’t want to like it. I thought it would be a novelty, and no way would it work as a sailboat tender. But, we haven’t found anything else in this speed and range that could compete. Much less anything else this much fun. Electric boating just got real and it makes me very excited about what the future of this space will look like. Because this isn’t just a mode of transportation, it’s an experience. If you have the budget, can you please buy us one too!
Full Details: https://www.zerojet.nz
🙈🙉🙊 Full Disclosure
This video was not sponsored by any of the boats or motors mentioned or reviewed. We don’t get any sort of incentive should you purchase. But if you do, please let them know they should buy us a beer for the recommendation. 🍻
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🙏 THANK YOU!
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Mercury has a concept electric outboard with quick swap out batteries would be cool to see this one when available.
Some practical experience.
I have an E-propulsion Spirit on a carbon dinghy for two months now in the Med. Most of the time it’s totally fine. Only once I had to go slowly or risk running out of power. But this is the Med, so no surprise.
There was an issue with corrosion of the battery connector which was solved with some WD40 and cleaning but still – it has been only two months.
Cons: Slow speed, potentially dangerous in bad weather, strong current, etc. The battery charges slowly (several hours), so you either plan re-charging, have a second battery or just live with a 5nm daily limit.
Pros: I’m very happy to charge it from the sun and not having gasoline on board. It’s very quiet, light and easy to operate.
IMO it is worth it in the Med. Outside I’ll probbaly get a gasoline one.
Just think with the jet just motor straight to the beach no props to worry about then a quick shove and you got jet no rowing
That sounds fabulous, but you do have to worry about a jet sucking up sand and small pebbles & such. I’m betting it doesn’t like that much. Besides, then we couldn’t see Jason swimming out to retrieve the dinghy! ;o)
You kids did a great job of comparing your choices and my choice would be the jet! Far fewer moving parts, plus plenty of speed and quiet. Did you consider any sailing options with these tenders? I grew up with prom bowed “Sabot-Like” tenders and also learned the basics of sailing with one.
Have you heard about this Electric Outboard startup at our home port in Rhode Island?
They’re showing a lot of promise!
Hi, I worked commercially with high speed Ribs and Jet ski’s. My advice on Jet ski is to stay away if you are going to be operating in water with plastic bags, ropes, fishing lines see bamboo or beaches with small pebbles. It gets sucked into the water pickup and gets either jammed between the impeller ans casing or damages the impeller causing performance loss. To open the water pickup to get to the impeller is no joke and parts are going to be a problem where outboard spares won’t be as much of a problem. Your decision will be made depending on the application of your runabout. Good luck with your choice.
Hi Nikki and Jason. Thanks for the fun and scientific video. Popular Mechanics could have learned something from your research and studying. Those companies were very cool letting you test their equipment.
I like the Zerojet. It seems practical, comfortable, not loud, speedy. Although, not sure if there is room to spare on that dinghy. Mary had a good point, put one or two other people in the Zerojet and see how it moves then. Another commenter talked about if you can easily get parts and if it breaks down, what is the process then? Something to consider.
Best wishes in ze Sunshine,
You guys are soooooo cool😆 I have a pair of Jet Ski‘s that are basically the same as your JetSki boat. The main problem I have with them is the intake is on the bottom of the boat, therefore it sucks from the bottom. When it does it picks up gravel and the gravel makes his way to the impeller and stops the impeller from moving. It’s not a big deal on the Jet Ski, you just roll it on its side take the grates off and Fish the rock or a tree branch out. however if it’s a big boat you may have your work cut out for you.
Great work folks. Glad you mentioned he Torqueedo and that there is an option that’s is Kiwi made. Suggest you check marine insurance covers Lithium batteries. Can I also suggest you check out PV Stop. Its a product that’s making great progress in the event of PV fire. Safety at sea!!!!! Have a great week Steve G
Nice that you are far enough out that you have breathing room for the drop dead decision on a Dingy and the propulsion system for it. Enjoyed the video of your testing and playing with the ones that were made available. The jet propulsion one seemed as if the jet was higher out of the water the, and was wondering if there was a reason and would it perform better or quieter deeper in the water? I would be cautious about any of them because of you know salt water and electronics not getting along well with each other of time, but I am sure you are considering this plus what if it breaks does this add another hand full of woes for you to remotely try to repair, or get parts? Regardless happy hunting, and thanks for letting us come along with you.
Good answer Bill, Especially the reaction of salt water with electronics if not properly sealed and isolated could lead to a massive meltdown or explosion
I too wondered about the depth of the propulsion point. So many of the electrics seemed like they would be much quieter if they were deeper.
Wow… I could feel the thrill from here with the jet. Yes, probably keep the gaser for now, but… My 2 cents at this point is your looking for range. Yes speed is great on a 20 mile hop to get supplies or dive. But running out of power on an electric? Well what do you do, carry a solar panel? Can’t flag down another boat for a run for fuel either. I think I’d save up the bucks to get the jet because: if you run a slower speed or for long runs a slow speed, your range is probably up there where you need it. Oh and get them to allow you to test (permanently for keeps) the skids (not sure what they are called) that allow you to plane out on the stilts. How much do they weigh? And weight on the jet is? Save up or maybe some generous views will help get that jet! Also, run it right up on the beach I think. That’s based on my experience with jet boats on the Allegheny River. Run right over top of rocks and dry spots and obstructions (hard side boat of course). So I’d guess beach it and push it back out when leaving. And finally. Same conclusion as before, get the hard side tender! Thanks for a fun video. It’d be neat to meet up with you here stateside! 🙂
I am currently building a 52ft solar electric boat, but built an electric dinghy for my PowerCat two years ago. Heres my take;
1) Weight is the enemy. Lithium batteries are not energy dense enough to have the same energy as gas per pound. You have to compromise based on speed and distance.
2) Voltage – I am an electrical engineer and having an outboard with a voltage higher than 48V in salt water scares the hell out of me.
3) Elco make a water cooled 48V 20hp outboard and a 30hp 96Volt outboard. I chose the 20hp outboard. Like you I looked at all the current outboards on the market and Elco was the only lightweight water cooled engine at the time.
4) Batteries – I chose to have 4 48V insight Relion Batteries for a total of 5kw. Would prefer to have 10kw but space and weight is the issue. You need Lithium batteries that can handle the high current load. The Insight batteries had a constant current max rating of 100 amps. A lot of other batteries were around 30 amps max.
If you want to plane, range will be a major issue as you will have to carry more batteries and then have that weight on your davits. I concluded after three years of research and trials of various configurations that planing for short periods is OK, but if you want to go on a long grocery run it will have to be at low speed or you will need to be able to carry more battery weight on your davits.
Having said all that I am very pleased with my electric dingy. I can go more than 5 miles at 15 knots and 24 miles at 5 knots and its so nice to just plug it in when I get back to my PowerCat. I am always looking at battery technology to find more energy dense options but of the batteries I tried, the Relion worked out best so far.
All up, the dingy, plus motor, plus batteries came in at 400lbs.
Thanks for the great videos and your winning personalities. We make scones and tea and watch your latest video every Sunday morning here in Southern California. We’ve been watching you two since your adventures in your motorhome and tiny car days.
Just want to offer a quick note about the table you posted in this video regarding energy: diesel vs battery electric for your tender. I work in the oil business. Diesel has an energy density between 16% and 33% greater than gasoline (depending on how it’s measured). FYI, liquid hydrogen has an energy density several times higher than diesel, and hydrogen, like gasoline, wants to be a gas at normal heat and atmospheric pressure. The point is the energy density difference might be less than the table using diesel implies.
So perhaps your data would be more accurate (useful) if you found a table on gasoline vs X instead of diesel as diesel tenders are not common and would be heavy. To help understand why just look at this: diesel comes out of the distillation process at about twice the heat required for distilling gasoline out of raw petroleum: https://energyeducation.ca/encyclopedia/Fractional_distillation
This is probably useless but I’ve wondered why these newish battery-electric dingys don’t have a solar panel set-up as a bimini top. Even the cheapest panels could offer several hundred watts midday while you are out exploring. Side bonus points are less potential for skin cancer. We love our bimini tops! Once you are our age and have spent years and years in the sunshine you’ll wish you had known better sun protection. Unless you like seeing your dermatologist regularly who greets you with a knife and bottle of liquid nitrogen already primed! 🙂
Be well and stay golden!
Keep the gas motor for now until electric gets better and cheaper. Probably will take a year or two for that.
Wow, that jet propulsion is the cat’s meow. Add a foil system to that and you have the best of all worlds. Imagine being above the chop and small waves! How cool is that!
Watch for a decent rudder control on a jet. That’s not a big deal to have or add. (By the way, I did not see 360 degree operation.)
My suggestion is to get something cheap for now, and wait for the soon available combo you want. The technology is rapidly changing and the market is heating up. Even waiting a year is worth it in the long run. By far.
But even worse than the problem with paddling versus rowing, is your inconsistent and incorrect use of motor versus engine. I realize that we have been plagued with the traditional misuse of the term ‘outboard motor’ when actually referring to an engine-based propulsion device. But it is still an engine.
An engine makes its power inside itself, while a motor gets its power from without. All electrics are always motors.
You guys are so scientific in your research and testing. My hat is off to you.
The electric boat reminds me of playing on the snow & ice and doing donuts in the parking lot!! Looks like so much fun!! What happens when you have more than 2 people in the dinghy? How much will that affect your power and performance? You know it is just a matter of time before we are coming to visit!!! 🙂
Brian L Fink
If you go with a propeller model, see if you can get a Sorrow Prop. It allows the engine to run at a lower speed for the same amount of propulsion due to the decreased amount of cavitation it produces. I saw the testing on a 150 HP gas engine and a 300 HP diesel engine. You might inquire with them to see if they are making props for small engines.
Hi Nikki and Jason, great to see your reviews thanks! ZeroJet is an awful lot of fun.
Maybe you can expand on the various recharge times too.
Patience is a virtue! Y’all have plenty of time to have those companies and more do their RnD.
Always a pleasure for our Sunday visits!