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Leading makers of electric outboard motors say they’re improving, but much work remains to be done.
Long relegated to trolling duty and dinghy driving, electric outboards are now in demand with more horsepower to deliver greater speed on bigger boats. These outboards have many attractive attributes for manufacturers and boaters alike. They are quieter than their internal combustion cousins, have fewer moving parts, require little or no maintenance, are lighter, have much greater torque and don’t smell.
But electric outboards also have their limitations. Speed isn’t so much the issue, but cost is. Range, particularly at higher speeds, is a major challenge, too. Here’s how seven leading manufacturers see the future of these motors shaping up.
VISION MARINE TECHNOLOGIES
Vision Marine Technologies started out in 1995 as a manufacturer of low-powered electric launches and runabouts, but since 2014, it has focused on building a more powerful electric outboard. The company is based in Montreal, and the first of its 180-hp electric outboards will soon hit the market, according to Bruce Nurse, who handles investor relations for Vision Marine. That would make the E-Motion 180E the world’s most powerful electric production outboard.
When the company announced the 180E last year, it said the 650-volt engine would be powered by a 60-kWh lithium battery that could provide an estimated range of 70 nautical miles, or 3½ hours, at a cruising speed of 17 knots. Since then, Vision Marine has contracted with Octillion Power Systems to develop a marinized, high-voltage, 35-kW, high-density power pack for the 180E. Nurse says that as battery technology improves, it will continue to extend the range of the 180E. With current battery technology, at 95 percent charge, the boat can go 35 to 40 hours at 4.6 knots.
Vision Marine had one of its motors available for testing at this year’s Miami International Boat Show. Mounted on a Starcraft 22 triple-hull pontoon boat, the motor pushed the boat to at least 30 knots in a chop with four people aboard. At the end of a one-hour ride that included a number of high-speed runs, the demo battery went from 96 percent capacity to 69 percent.
With Octillion batteries, future battery technology improvements and the cost of kilowatts dropping, Nurse and Vision Marine expect the 180E’s range to continue to grow.
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