In the world of pleasure boating - and especially among owners of small and medium-sized vessels - we are witnessing the progressive affirmation of the outboard electric motor as a valid alternative, in many cases preferable, to the traditional combustion engine. The market for electric outboard motors is developing, consequently, a varied and expanding offer, counting many world-famous motor manufacturers among its manufacturing companies.
Generally speaking, these are ideal engines for tenders, medium-sized boats - generally up to ten meters - sailing vessels, which show their strengths if used in contexts where the silence and an ecological approach, as well as good efficiency in terms of performance.
The advantages of the outboard electric motor
The comfort in using an outboard electric motor is particularly evident in its lightness and easy handling; a relatively low weight combines with the engine's ability to operate in various positions fluidly and to be moved easily in relation to the needs of the moment. A very interesting aspect is, in fact, the possibility of the engine be raised completely, allowing the vessel to push into areas of shallow depth without touching the seabed with the foot.
The value aspects related to comfort are combined with those related to ecological matrix, a factor which for those who are passionate about boating, and therefore love contact with nature, cannot fail to be of great importance. The outboard electric motor does not contribute to water pollution, not releasing exhaust gases and not running the risk of fuel or oil leaks.
Respect for nature also comes through extremely silent of the outboard electric motor which does not disturb either people on land or underwater fauna; presenting itself as ideal for fishing enthusiasts and professionals. Furthermore, the absence of pollution risk means that boats equipped with an outboard electric motor are allowed to free access to many protected areas where, in the case of heat engines, bans to protect the environment are in force.
Finally, in terms of saving time and costs, the very simple operation of this type of engine means that maintenance-related items are eliminated, but - above all - the financial gain it is noticeable in the supply of electricity, which is much less expensive than fossil fuels. The cost of an outboard electric motor (generally higher than a traditional engine with the same performance) is easily amortized, especially in cases where the use of the vessel is frequent and prolonged.
The autonomy of the outboard electric motor
One of the most discussed topics in the comparison between thermal and electric outboard engines is the question of the autonomy connected to the presence of the battery. As a rule, a more than satisfactory autonomy - to be evaluated in relation to the speed and time in which one navigates - is that guaranteed by lithium batteries, much lighter and with longer life and charging performance superior to gel ones. Among the strengths of the lithium battery is the possibility of being downloaded to 100% of its capacity and, furthermore, a certain speed in giving the engine the intensity it needs.
Overall it is a light, compact battery with excellent performance, but there is the possibility of increase autonomy in various ways: connecting to the on-board electrical network, where possible, connecting the battery to a solar panel to ensure that it is recharged while the engine itself is running and - clearly - providing a spare battery. These are good solutions, especially in those cases where you want to navigate in off-the-beaten-track areas, where fuel supplies can be difficult. Finally, if you want to provide an external battery, excellent performance can be achieved with a slow discharge battery - for example AGM type gel batteries or pure lead – which resist skidding well and do not pose serious risks of acid leakage.
Safety and reliability of the engine, including the batteries, the battery charger and the control components connected to it, are guaranteed through tests defined at European level. Since all these components are intended to be part of a vessel, they must be certified with the involvement of a notified body (e.g. Udicer/Nautitest). The electrical and electronic parts will follow the typical procedures of naval electronics testing.
Electric motors, market and prospects
The size of the outboard motor market has been assessed $9.1 billion in 2020 and it is estimated that – by 2027 – they will grow with a CAGR (Compounded Average Growth Rate, compound annual growth rate) higher than 5%. This is the perspective outlined by the report “Outboard Engines Market 2021-2027” by Global Market Insights. The report confirms that the increase in sports and nautical activities worldwide will support the growth of the market; just as happened in 2018 in the United States, in which approx 84.5 million citizens they went boating at least once.
According to National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the gross production of recreational boating, fishing and other aquatic activities is worth $38.6 billion in 2018. Outdoor recreational boating therefore represents one of the highest expenses for outdoor recreational activities among US users.
Furthermore, at a US and European level, it is expected that the market segment of outboard electric motors will grow interestingly – with a CAGR estimated at 3% – by 2027. This is attributed to the focus of regulatory bodies around the world on reducing pollution levels and emissions from marine engines, but also to the fact that industry players are launching electric outboard motors – as well as batteries – increasingly advanced to satisfy a clearly expanding customer base.
For the certification of these products you can contact a notified body (for example Udicer/Nautitest) which uses Sicom Testing for the naval electronics certification.
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