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Electric vs. Gas Outboard Motors: Which Is Better?

Recently there has been an opening in the market for outboard motors powered by electricity instead of gas. A couple of companies have started creating outboards mostly with small horsepower ratings. Although, there are a couple of new ones coming out that have over 70 horsepower.

But the real question is, is the gas or electric outboard better? Gas outboards are the better option for the majority of people, but many electric outboards perform just as well. Based on what’s on the current market, electric outboards are meant for people looking for a small horsepower rating (under 80hp).

If you want to boat on a lake that forces you to get an electric outboard, don’t worry there not that bad. This article explains all you will need to know about them by comparing them to similar gas outboards.

Why buy an electric outboard over a gas outboard?

Electric outboards are most likely going to be the future whether you like them or not. Many lakes are already banning gas engines and forcing people to use electric propulsion. While trolling motors can get it done in most of these lakes, not everyone wants to have a max speed of only 5 mph.

Here’s a quick pros and cons list for electric outboards:

Pros
  • Can save you money after a certain amount of time
  • Electricity is cheaper than gas
  • Prevents water pollution
  • No air fumes to breath in
  • Very quiet (hard to scare fish away)
  • No need to winterize
  • Pretty much zero maintenance
  • Can have near-infinite running time by connecting solar panels to the batteries
Cons
  • Not many models available
  • Very few high horsepowers models available
  • Batteries are very expensive

I would recommend only getting an electric motor for small fishing boats (under 20 feet) because there aren’t many high horsepower models available. They can get you going much faster than trolling motors can but not as fast as many gas outboards can.

Watersports are a possibility, but definitely not something that is going to be very good. In my opinion, Electric outboards are most meant for fishermen and duck hunters because there aren’t many high horsepower ones available on the market.

Why buy a gas outboard over an electric outboard?

Gas power is still a much more popular option and probably will be for a long time. Even though gas costs much more than electricity, the upfront for gas outboards is always cheaper.

Here are the pros and cons of gas outboards:

Pros
  • Much cheaper upfront cost
  • Many different manufactures and models
  • Models available that have 600+ horsepower
  • Have proven track records
Cons
  • Cause water and air pollution (especially old two strokes)
  • Gas costs a lot of money
  • Require a lot of maintenance
  • Most need to be winterized

Gas outboards can pretty much do everything well, while electric outboards are capped off because there aren’t many high horsepower models available.

Do electric or gas outboard motors cost more?

When looking at just the price of the outboard motor itself, both electric and gas motors cost around the same. The batteries are what end up costing a lot of money, but the batteries could just be viewed as paying for gas in advance.

If you use your boat a lot, you could even start to save money by using electric power over gas because electricity is much cheaper.

Many times by the time you would start saving, the batteries would be almost dead. So in the end, both electric and gas outboards will cost around the same, you may just have to wait a while to get value out of an electric outboard.

How long does it take until you start saving money with an electric outboard?

it takes about 5 to 9 years until you start saving money if you get an electric outboard with the cheapest battery option. If you decide to go with the most expensive battery option, it could take 15 to 25 years until you start saving money.

Cheap battery options are generally anything less than $2,000 for small outboards (under 20 horsepower) or less than $5,000 for larger outboards (20-50 horsepower). Expensive batteries usually cost under $5,000 for small outboards and under $16,000 for large outboards.

Are Elco electric outboards cheaper than similar gas outboards?

I gathered a couple of the most popular 50 horsepower outboard motors and compared them to the most popular electric 50 hp outboard motor (Elco), here are the results:

Outboard BrandCost
Elco (Electric)$8,999
Elco (Batteries included)$13,807-$24,849
Mercury (Gas)$7,439
Yamaha (Gas)$7,800
Honda (Gas)$7,429
– Price varies as there are different battery options

But, this doesn’t tell the whole story as gas costs more than electricity does. The charts below show the average amount you will be paying on gas/electricity each year assuming you put 50 hours on your boat each year and have a 50 horsepower motor.

Gas or ElectricConsumptionCost
Gas 50 hp234 Gallons$632-$889 Per Year
Elco Electric 50 hp175kWh-236 kWh$28-$38 Per Year

Based on just that information and you factor in maintenance costs, it would take about 5.5-6.5 years to start saving with the cheaper batteries, and 20 to 25 years for the more expensive battery. Considering that the cheaper battery lasts around 7 years and the more expensive one lasts around 20 years, your pretty much paying the same amount for either a gas outboard or the Elco electric outboard.

Are ePropulsion electric outboards cheaper than similar gas outboards?

Here is a price comparison when looking at a 10 horsepower motor from ePropulsion compared to similar gas outboards:

Outboard BrandCost
ePropulsion 9.9 (Electric)$3,199
ePropulsion 9.9 (Plus Batteries)$4,198-$7,198
Mercury 9.9 (Gas)$2,316
Honda 9.9 (Gas)$2,934
Suzuki 9.9 (Gas)$2,607
– Price varies as there are different battery options

As you can see, the upfront cost of a gas motor is still significantly cheaper than it is for the electric motor and battery. So assuming again that you put 50 hours per year on your boat, this is how much you will be paying in gas or electricity:

Gas or ElectricConsumptionCost
Gas 10 hp motor33 Gallons$89-$125 Per Year
ellectcric ePropulsion 10hp motor130 kWh-150 kWh$19-$32 Per Year

So based on this, it will take about 7.5 to 9 years until the ePropulsion 10 hp motor with the cheapest battery (E40) starts to save you money. With the most expensive battery (e175), it will take around 26 to 30 years until you start saving.

These statistics tend to be very similar threw out all of the electric outboard companies that are currently available on the market.

So in my opinion, I would go with a gas motor, but if you need to buy an electric one, you are pretty much just paying for gas upfront. In the end, it will cost about the same whichever one you choose, it just might take a while for you to make your money back with an electric outboard.

What’s the highest horsepower electric outboard motor?

There have been a couple of glimpses of electric motors that have been over 100 horsepower, but currently, the highest horsepower electric outboard on the market is 80 horsepower. This is the Torqeedo Deep 50 RXL. The starting cost for one of these is around $20,000, but that doesn’t include batteries, which will add some more thousands to that.

At this horsepower, watersports such as waterskiing, wakeboarding, tubing, etc. are completely possible. It’s also enough to power most smaller boats with ease even through harsh weather.

Although this outboard is not on the market, a youtube video came out about a 350 horsepower electric outboard. Check it out below:

How long do electric outboards last before they need to be recharged compared to gas outboards needing to be refueled?

Most electric outboard companies will give you some options on batteries. Some will last longer than others, but on average they last around 2 to 7 hours on half throttle until they need to be recharged. This number can wildly vary, so make sure you see the battery length for your specific motor before making any purchases.

One thing that you can do if you want some extra battery life is getting some solar panels on your boat to recharge the batteries. This is great for many of the cheaper batteries that don’t have much battery life in them.

Below is a list of some of the most popular electric outboard companies and how long their motors last until they need a recharge.

Note- Ranges depend on many factors such as boat size, boat weight, weather condition, etc. so this is not a legal guarantee.

Elco

Elco does not display much of their running time on their website, but they do give a calculator to find out how long each one should last. So I did the math and here are the results:

ModelRunning Time At Half ThrottleRunning Time At Full Throttle
EP-5 5hp1.8 hours1 hour
EP-9.9 9.9hp2.7 hours1.2 hours
EP-14 14hp2.5 hours1.1 hours
EP-20 20hp1.9 hours0.8 hours
EP-30 30hp5 hours2.3 hours
EP-50 50hp2.4 hours1 hour

Data is assuming you have the lithium-ion battery option from Elco, but the deep cycle agm battery option will have a very similar running time (sometimes even more).

ePropulsion

ModelRunning Time At Half ThrottleRunning Time At Full Throttle
Spirit 1.0 Plus 3hp (Integrated battery)5 hours1 hour 15 minutes
Spirit 1.0 Evo 3hp (Integrated Battery)5 hours1 hour 15 minutes
Navy 3.0 6hp (E80 Battery)2 hours 40 minutes1 hour 20 minutes
Navy 6.0 9.9hp (E175 Battery)3 hours1 hour 30 minutes
Pod Drive 1.0 3hp (E40 Battery)8 hours2 hours
Pod Drive 3.0 6hp (E80 Battery)5 hours 20 minutes1 hour 20 minutes
Pod Drive 6.0 9.9hp (E175 Battery)6 hours1 hour 30 minutes

Data from the ePropulsion website (source)

Torqeedo

ModelRunning Time Half Throttle/Going SlowRunning Time Full Throttle
Ultralight 403 A 1hp (Integrated Battery)4 hours 10 minutes (Half Throttle)48 minutes
Ultralight 403 AC 1hp (Integrated Battery)11 hours 50 minutes (Half Throttle)2 hours 20 minutes
Ultralight 1103 AC 3hp (Integrated Battery)1 hour 28 minutes (Half Throttle)48 minutes
Travel 603 S 2hp (Integrated Battery)1 hour 45 minutes (Half Throttle)50 minutes
Travel 1103 CS 3hp (Integrated Battery)6 hours (Half Throttle)50 minutes
Cruise 2.0 TS 5hp (Power 24-3500 Battery)8 hours (Going Slow)1 hour 45 minutes
Cruise 2.0 RS 5hp (Power 24-3500 Battery)8 hours (Going Slow)1 hour 45 minutes
Cruise 4.0 TS 8hp (Power 48-5000 Battery)10 hours (Going Slow)1 hour 15 minutes
Cruise 4.0 RS 8hp (Power 48-5000 Battery)10 hours (Going Slow)1 hour 15 minutes
Cruise 10.0 TS 20hp (2x Power 48-5000 Battery)6 hours (Going Slow)1 hour
Cruise 10.0 RS TorqLink 20hp (2 x Power 48-5000 Batteries)6 hours (Going Slow)1 hour
Deep Blue 25 R 40hp (40 kWh Battery)6.7 – 20 hours (Going Slow)1.6 hours
Deep Blue 25 R 40hp (2x 9.1 kWh Batteries)7-11 hours (Going Slow)45 minutes
Deep Blue 50 R 80hp (40 kWh Battery)6.7 – 20 hours (Going Slow)0.8 hours

Data from the Torqeedo website (source)

How long do gas outboards last until they need to be refueled?

When it comes to gas motors, it also widely varies between how fuel-efficient your motor is and how large your gas tank is. But, for gas outboards that are 80 horsepower or lower, they generally last around 2.5 to 4.5 hours until they need to be refueled when driving in normal conditions.

This is assuming you have a tank size of around 18 to 22 gallons which is very common among boats with these sized motors. For boats with motors under 20 horsepower, the tank will most likely be much smaller but they still have a similar time until refueling is needed.

Do gas or electric outboard motors have a longer lifespan?

When it comes to the motor itself, electric outboards will have a much longer lifespan than gas motors do. The problem with electric motors is the lifespan of the batteries. The electric motors themselves pretty much have an infinite lifespan.

Elco claims their electric outboards have a service lifetime of 50,000 hours. This is similar to many other electric outboards too. When it comes to batteries, lithium-ion will last much longer than other kinds of batteries.

A lithium-ion battery for an electric outboard will last around 10 to 15 years until they need to be replaced. Other batteries that aren’t lithium-ion generally won’t last as long. For example, AGM batteries will last around 4 to 6 years for an electric outboard.

What’s the best electric outboard motor?

Multiple outboards are great for multiple reasons or situations that you have. The three top electric outboard brands are Elco, ePropulsion, and Torqeedo. Any outboard from them will perform great.

Best high horsepower electric outboard

There are very few high horsepower electric outboards, but one that I really like is the Torqeedo Deep Blue 50 R 80hp. Not only is this the highest horsepower electric outboard on the market, but it is also from one of the most reputable brands on the market.

Best electric outboard for small bass boats

Elco has a large selection of different horsepower models that are great for fishermen. The Elco EP-20 20hp seems to be the most popular choice.

Do you need a trolling motor on a boat with an electric outboard?

If you put an electric outboard on your fishing boat, it will act the same as a gas one. A trolling motor is still needed for most fishermen. Generally, you can even connect your trolling motor to the same battery that you use for your outboard.

Can you do watersports behind an electric outboard?

It’s difficult to do water sports with most electric outboards due to their low horsepower ratings, but there are a couple that can. The 50 horsepower Elco and 80 horsepower Torqueedo are two examples of those electric outboards that can do watersports.

If you want to read more about recommended horsepower ratings for all the different watersports, check out this article I wrote.

Do electric outboards help prevent water and air pollution?

Electric outboards are going to be the future because they do not pollute the air or water. Many lakes have been switching to electric-only for this reason, so might as well hop on the trend early.

I would also recommend solar panels to charge your batteries (you could even get some for on your boat). This way you are only using clean energy to fuel your outboard.

Sam