Electric outboard - What you need to know before taking the plunge

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Electric motorization is no longer a futuristic project, but a reality, with dozens of brands of motors and batteries coming onto the market, just as they did in the early days of the automobile, almost 150 years ago. Often totally unknown brands from all over the world. It’s a safe bet that within 5 to 10 years, 75% of these brands will have disappeared or merged. So it’s not easy to make a choice and commit without knowing whether the after-sales service will still be guaranteed in 6 months, a year or two years.

The electric motor, a 200-year-old invention!

Promoted by governments for environmental reasons, the electric motor is far from new. Although the earliest examples date back to 1821 and 1822 in England, the first real electric motor capable of performing a task was developed by the American Thomas Davenport in 1834. This was followed by improvements such as Nikola Tesla’s invention of an AC induction motor in 1887. The first electric motor suitable for use in automobiles dates back to 1892, developed by Westinghouse engineers. However, it wasn’t until the invention of the rechargeable lead-acid battery by Gaston Planté in 1850 that the technology took off, notably with the famous “Jamais contente” (Never content) by Belgian Camille Jénatzy, which in 1899 was the first electric car to exceed 60 mph (100 km/h). Even more impressively, in 1900, electric cars accounted for 38% of the American automotive market, before the combustion engine, which was more economical and offered greater range, took over.
The electric motor is therefore relatively simple technology, that’s been very well mastered and, above all, widely proven over decades. However, to operate, an electric motor needs energy, stored in batteries. What the motor is capable of will therefore depend in part on the size of these batteries, their technology and how many you use.
As a result, there’s a lot more to electric propulsion than just the motor. In fact, the motor itself is only a small part of the whole. What’s more important, when you buy an electric outboard, is the batteries and the battery management system. It’s the latter that regulates the distribution of energy and ensures greater range. Last but not least, there’s the recharging system, which varies in speed from one technology to another.

What kind of battery?

The first kind of battery, invented in 1850 by Gaston Planté, was the lead-acid battery, a technology that is still widely used today. Next came nickel-cadmium batteries, now banned, then Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries, which have been superseded by lithium-ion technology.
Finally, the new generation of all-solid-state batteries, which increase energy density and stability while simplifying thermal management, is starting to appear on the market, as are salt batteries, that are almost entirely recyclable, thus partly solving the ecological problem. To date, lithium-ion technology has dominated the market for powering electric motors.

Theoretical ...

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