Petrol vs Electric Outboards

Petrol vs Electric Outboards

There are several important factors to consider when investing in an outboard. How suitable is the outboard for your intended use? Will the outboard have enough power for your vessel? What maintenance should you be expecting to keep up with? How will this choice affect my environmental impact?

Due to increasing concerns regarding the health of our environment, we have been given an option to switch to Electric powered outboards. However, this raises further questions and makes the search for the perfect motor that much harder. Below we’ll discuss the benefits of fuel and electric power, the comparison between them and how important it is to consider our impact on the environment.

Benefits of Fuel Powered Outboards

When it comes to power, there’s just no beating a petrol outboard. It’s the comfortable choice for many experienced sailors and what we’ve all come to know and love. A larger craft requires a much more generous amount of power – something electric outboards haven’t quite caught up with yet. We are spoilt for choice with petrol motors, you’ll undoubtedly find something suits to your intended use. There is a vast variety of makes and models on the market, all with different quirks for alternative requirements. You can choose an outboard from as little as 3HP up to 600HP, purchasers are spoilt for choice. For the majority of sailors, all their boxes are ticked when they don’t have to consider being restricted by the power the outboard can produce. Fuel powered outboards are considerably more accessible due to the lower upfront cost; not everyone has the luxury of being able to consider the long-term expenses over the initial investment of petrol vs electric.

If you keep up with the recommended annual service (which can be carried out by most boatyards, etc) the outboard should run trouble-free. They’re reasonably easy to tinker with and maintain yourself as long as you have some prior knowledge.

Despite a bad reputation as harmful for the environment, some fuel powered outboards have been adapted to a low-emission design to help reduce their negative impact. So, even if your goal is to go greener, you may still be able to achieve this to a reasonable degree with select petrol engines.

Benefits of Electric Outboards

Electric outboards are silent, clean, and maintenance-free. They produce zero pollution at point of use, and do not have a negative impact on the environment which in turn is also much safer for the user with the lack of nasty fuel and exhaust fumes.

They’re extremely user friendly to a much wider audience due to the simple controls and transportability. Easy to use with the push-button start and usage screen – if you can steer, you can use it! They’re very lightweight and easily removable, the battery can even be detached from the main unit for easier charging and mobility. Electric power is measured in watts rather than horsepower. They’re often mistaken for trolling motors (that are only able to handle a slow trolling speed) but electric outboard motors can provide a much higher power, designed to be the primary power source. A 1000W electric motor (equivalent to 3HP fuel powered) is enough to power vessels such as dinghies, inflatables, and small sail boats (up to 1.5 tons) at a speed of around 5 knots, depending on the make and model.

Electric charging opens up a much wider range of options including innovative charging techniques like solar power. Solar power is especially useful when out on the water, where you are arguably able to receive the most amount of sunlight possible and reap the most benefits. This allows you to charge and discharge energy simultaneously to extend the range of your battery while in use.

Some electric outboards have been adapted to feature Hydrogeneration (renewable energy). This allows you to take advantage of the wind energy to charge the batteries while sailing to provide you with extra power to cover father distances or enable you to supply power to other appliances on board.

Switching to electric means no annual servicing costs, electric outboards require little to no work to keep them running. This enables you save a huge amount of money on maintenance and running costs are extremely low.

Petrol vs Electric

There are a number of pros and cons in either direction of the Petrol vs Electric argument. The decision between the two depends entirely on the individual needs and requirements.

Petrol is around 75 times more energy dense, batteries simply do not have anywhere near the energy density of fossil fuels. However, electric outboards are far more efficient. In fuel powered motors the liquid fuel is being turned into heat (while simultaneously running a cooling system to counteract this heat), noise and overcoming friction and motion. This motion is then transferred via the vertical shaft and right-angle gearbox (even more losses) to a propeller. On the flip side with electric power, the motor is at the bottom of the leg and directly in line with the propeller. They make very little noise and due to the motor being underwater the sea automatically does the cooling without the need for pumps. The horsepower of a petrol engine is actually its peak horsepower – this is the highest level of power the engine can deliver. The downside of this is that the engine must build their revs per minute (RPM) through acceleration until they reach their maximum power – not very efficient! Alternatively, switching on an electric outboard is like any other electrical appliance – a push of a button. It will turn on immediately and does not need to build up, the rpm’s sit at zero. Undeniably, petrol can carry a lot more energy in a smaller container, but it’s worth weighing up whether you need the vast amount of energy it contains all in one go.

Price is also an important aspect to consider before purchase. Electric outboards are notably more expensive than petrol outboards, however, the difference in price can often average out when you take into consideration the annual servicing cost and ever rising fuel prices. So, although petrol offers a lower initial investment cost than electric, it’s essential to look into all the potential future maintenance expenses.

Environmental Comparison

It’s crucial to note that many regions and lakes have already banned the use of combustion motors due to their disruption and pollution to surrounding water and areas. As a result of this, many people have begun switching to electric power to keep in line with new laws and protocols.

With the ever-increasing climate crisis we find ourselves in, there’s a growing desire to be greener in everyday activities in order to reduce emissions – this has certainly reflected positively on the marine community and enticed change. Petrol outboards aid pollution by emitting gases and carbon dioxide. This has a heavy impact on the ocean, which produces over half the worlds oxygen and absorbs 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere.

Alternatively, electric outboard motors are clean, efficient, and fully sustainable as they release no environmentally harmful emissions and are carbon neutral. Thanks to this advantage, you’re not only breathing in clean air (and avoiding the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide) but you’re also aiding in maintaining the waterways and protecting aquatic and marine life.

Fortunately, the industry is ever changing and adapting. There are already higher-powered electric outboards hitting the market that will cater to the needs of more sailors. Electric inboard engines are also starting to take a hold in the industry.


Electric Outboard on Tender