Electric Boats

18' Packet II, courtesy of the Duffy Electric Boat Co.

Do I own an electric boat? Nope, I don’t – but I get enough questions about them that I thought I would put together a little info for you.

The truth is that most electric vehicles are more or less the same – batteries, a motor controller, the motor, and a battery charger. Whether that’s in a car, a boat, or a motorcycle, it really doesn’t matter.

A few things will be a little different – weight capacity, center of gravity, and speed are doing to be different on land vehicles than water vehicles. If you want an electric boat, what are your options?

Electric Trolling Motor:
Electric trolling motors are not an ideal option,  but are great for low speeds and are turn-key just by going out and purchasing one. If you need more power you could even put more than one on the back of your boat. A few manufacturers DO make higher voltage, higher power trolling motors. Take a look at Minn Kota – they have an electric outboard called the “E-Drive” that can run at 48 volts.

Dedicated Electric Boats
A while back, I was talking with a friend about my electric vehicle projects, and they told me of a local guy who had an electric boat! Right away, I wanted to go find and talk with him and take a look at it. Sure enough, the boat was not any kind of a conversion, but rather a commercially-built, mass-marketed DEDICATED electric boat! It’s a Duffy brand 18′. I’m not much of a boat guy, but I guess I would call it a “cocktail-cruiser” – just a pleasure boat for going around the lake. The electric inboard motor is hidden away under the floor and connects to a prop-shaft, going out the back of the boat to the propeller. The boat is quiet, low maintenance, and the perfect place for a martini at sunset!

Electric Outboards
Believe it or not, you CAN just run out and buy an electric outboard. There are several manufacturers, but the one I have some personal experience with is Torqeedo. It’s a dedicated outboard that you simply bolt to the back of your boat. The one that I saw was on a medium-sized pontoon boat. It ran on two flooded marine batteries for a 24-volt system. The best part is that the boat owner also had a pair of large solar panels on the canopy of the boat. Each of those panels recharged one of the two batteries. It was a SOLAR-POWERED pontoon boat. I really mean that – it wasn’t “solar-assisted” – the owner had no electric power at his dock or battery charger. He completely charged the boat from solar!

Outboard Conversions
If you have an outboard motor with a bad engine, why not replace that engine with an electric motor?
The process is very similar to what you would do converting a motorcycle or other vehicle to electric. Add the electric motor, motor controller, batteries and charger. The other components stay the same. You would still have the same steering, the same propeller, and other equipment. You just wouldn’t have a gas-tank or all that noise and pollution!
There are several web pages out there about converting gas outboards to electric. Here’s one.  And here’s another. Converting an outboard to electric will be a little more work than just buying an electric outboard , but you will also save money and have a pretty cool project to show off!

What about you? Do you have an electric boat or have converted an outboard to electric? Send us a photo or tell us how you did it. We’d love to help show off your project!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dee Leekha April 27, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Please visit our website.

2 Scott Masterson August 20, 2016 at 9:13 am
3 BenN August 20, 2016 at 9:42 am

Scott, that’s fantastic! Great job!

4 Jack deschaine September 27, 2016 at 10:42 pm

What about using a salvaged outdrive from an inboard motor rigged to an electric motor?”

5 Stuart Boschen January 18, 2020 at 3:44 am

Ben just found your YouTube channel and subscribed have been enjoying your vids and have some questions’. How common are the Smith Box trucks over there as in Australia there’s nothing close I can use or source here. The project I’m thinking about doing is replacing 2x 120hp Perkins diesel in my 46′ 30ton displacement timber bay boat so weight isn’t an issue but price is and access here to cheap second hand motors and controllers is a problem. That box truck looked prefect to me, I’d would consider breaking up anything from a truck to a Zamboni for the parts I need. Any thoughts?
Regards Stuart Boschen

6 admin January 20, 2020 at 9:10 am

Hello Stuart,
Unfortunately, those Smith box trucks are NOT very common. Besides that, there’s NO support for them. It would likely be pretty challenging to repurpose the parts without some pretty good knowledge of electronics, CAN communications, etc.
Try contacting Muller Industries. They might still have some of the motors and controllers from Smith trucks if you want to pursue that. https://www.mullerindustriesusa.com

That sounds like a BIG boat, so I would imagine you would need not only a powerful electric motor but a huge battery as well. I’ve never built an electric boat, so I’m not really the right guy to ask about this. Try digging around some electric boat forums and see if you can get some more information from other builders. Even the BOATS section of the EV Album might be a good place to start. http://www.evalbum.com/type/BOAT/

Good Luck!

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