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Taking the Electric Avenue

Portable electric outboards for dinghies provide a clean, convenient power solution
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The Spirit 1.0 Evo motor with flip-down tiller tips the scales at 23 pounds.

The Spirit 1.0 Evo motor with flip-down tiller tips the scales at 23 pounds.

For cruisers and passagemakers, powering a dinghy with a conventional gas-powered micro-outboard can be problematic. The larger vessels’ primary power source is often diesel, requiring owners to stow jerricans of gasoline that, in some cases, violate insurance restrictions. And to prevent theft, taking off and putting on gas-powered engines can be awkward and time-consuming.

Unlike their petrol-powered cousins, electric outboards don’t require routine maintenance or winterizing. Most small electric outboards have detachable batteries, so those doing the installation don’t have to handle the package’s entire weight all at once. A number of outfits have grown this segment to meet the demands of many boaters.

The ePropulsion Spirit 1.0 Evo has a detachable battery pack that floats. 

The ePropulsion Spirit 1.0 Evo has a detachable battery pack that floats. 

Temo 450

This unique approach to portable electric dinghy power comes from France. It’s a clever invention that won the most recent virtual Metstrade DAME R&D Excellence in Diversity Award, besting a field of 46 other entrants.

Inspired by Thai longtail boats, the portable Temo 450 ($1,745) consists of a 6.7-inch plastic propeller shrouded by a cage at the end of a telescoping stick that holds a 290-Wh lithium-ion battery and brushless motor. The unit weighs less than 11 pounds, and it mounts to an oarlock bracket at the stern. It has a waterproof rating of IP67, which means it can be fully submerged up to about 3 feet with no damage. An optional “life jacket” ($71) allows it to float. There is an optional security lock, but removing the whole unit and carrying it ashore would also be feasible.

The Temo 450 can swivel 30 degrees each way, and can switch into reverse quickly, making small boats very maneuverable. Its business end can be positioned just below the surface, so if a boat is floating, it can move. There’s no intake to inject weeds or debris.

The Temo 450’ s unique design was inspired by Thai

The Temo 450’ s unique design was inspired by Thai

With a run time of 40 minutes at full throttle, or longer with more judicious use of the finger-trigger throttle, the Temo 450 can make multiple trips to shore or other boats before needing to be recharged by the 220- or 12-volt charger, which takes three hours. A gauge that shows the state of charge and an optional portable battery pack good for up to four recharges let users make longer trips.

The Temo 450 is designed for use in salt water, but the manufacturer recommends rinsing it in fresh water afterward.

Torqeedo Travel 603 S

E-power leader Torqeedo recently introduced the newest member of its Travel family: the 2-hp 603 S ($1,999). A detachable 9-pound lithium-ion 500-Wh battery pack — which floats — decreases the weight of the remaining package to an easily manageable 25 pounds. Travel batteries use individually welded, cylindrical steel safety cells equipped with multiple safety mechanisms. And a built-in battery management system has redundant hardware backups.

The lightweight motor mounts on an oarlock.

The lightweight motor mounts on an oarlock.

An additional 500-Wh battery can be purchased for $600 to double the range for extended trips. At half-throttle, the 603 S has a run time of one hour, 45 minutes. A built-in, GPS-based range calculator is displayed on the LCD, which is on the tiller arm to let a skipper know if his destination can be reached at the current speed.

The 603 S can link to a cellphone with an optional Bluetooth dongle (or an optional USB adapter port) for use with the TorqTrac app, which allows wireless monitoring. For $299, the Travel series motor can be equipped with a remote throttle for use with a steering wheel. To further extend range, the Torqeedo Travel series works with a 50-watt solar charger.

For those with greater power needs, Tor­qeedo makes the top-of-the-Travel-line 1103 C motor that cranks out 3 hp, has a larger, 915-Wh battery, and costs $2,699.The 1103 C model has a direct-drive system like the one on the 603 S, making the larger model quieter than its predecessors.

At half-throttle, the Torqeedo 603 S has a run time of one hour, 45 minutes. 

At half-throttle, the Torqeedo 603 S has a run time of one hour, 45 minutes. 

ePropulsion Spirit 1.0 Evo

When it comes to batteries, bigger is better, and the ePropulsion Spirit 1.0 Evo ($2,699) has the largest-in-class, 1,276-Wh lithium-ion pouch-cell battery pack. It yields a one-hour, 15-minute run time at wide-open throttle.

Rated to the equivalent of 3 hp, the Chinese-built Spirit also has a detachable and floatable battery pack. Detached, the battery pack weighs 19 pounds, while the motor assembly with flip-down tiller arm tips the scales at 23 pounds. The weights allow human transporters to be balanced when schlepping them both around. The battery connects to the motor via a stainless steel cable connector and can be charged by an optional 180-watt solar panel — even when in operation. A connector allows use of a larger external battery if more range is needed.

The 1.0 Evo is an upgrade from the similar Spirit 1.0 Plus ($2,199) and includes a backlit display for easier reading. The 1.0 Evo can be charged via hydrogeneration, which is done while sailing or towing (with the prop freewheeling in the water) at speeds of 4 to 10 knots.

For safety, the Spirit (like the Torqeedo) has a magnetic kill switch connector that nestles into a recess atop the tiller handle, making it easy to re-engage if it accidentally pulls loose. An optional $100 wristband kill switch is also available. The backlit display shows run time, battery level and operating voltage. It doesn’t show range because there’s no internal GPS.

Torqeedo offers an additional 500-Wh battery for $600 to double the range for 
extended use.

Torqeedo offers an additional 500-Wh battery for $600 to double the range for extended use.

The twist-grip throttle is designed without detents, so selecting the perfect speed is easier, and there’s no shifting needed to go into reverse. You just twist the throttle counterclockwise. Lefties can reverse the direction of forward and reverse for better ergonomics. The handle folds down, but when the motor is on the transom, it must be spun 180 degrees to accomplish this.

Like the Torqeedo and Temo, the Spirit 1.0 Evo uses a brushless motor, which has several advantages over brushed motors. Brushes spin and make constant contact with the commutator plates, causing wear from friction, and more noise. The Spirit line can be purchased with a tiller or a remote throttle system at no extra cost. 

This article was originally published in the May 2021 issue.

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