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GAS VS ELECTRIC Ė AN OPINION

 

Since I started visiting the BYYB forum I have witnessed many a battle over the virtues of gas outboard over electric outboard.Having started my boating two years ago with no knowledge of either type of engine, and using both I feel I have a unique perspective on the subject to share.

 

COST-

This proved to be the most substantial difference, and also turned out to be why I purchased the electric engine first, and the gas one about a year later.The gas engines I priced were about twelve hundred dollars for a four-horse power engine, while a 36Lb thrust trolling motor with a top of the line deep cycle battery could be bought for about two hundred dollars.I could never afford that new gas motor.I ended up buying a used one from 1967 for about $350.00.

 

RANGE-

In range the gas motor is the obvious winner.A gas motors range is only limited by the amount of fuel you have room to store onboard.Batteries for the electric motor are very heavy, and slow to recharge.I found I could get about two hours of operation at full power out of one battery.You can operate an electric motor at slower speeds to get a longer operating time however I never found any advantage to this. Half the power, and you get twice the time at half the speed.You end up at the same spot when you run out of power.You only took twice as long to get there.

 

POWER-

In a contest of power the gas motor has to be considered the winner.Even a low horsepower gas engine can typically outperform the typical electric.I have been motoring up river against a light current and some fair winnd, and would be literally running at a standstill with the electric engine.

 

SAFETY-

Safety is one area where in my opinion the electric trolling motor is the obvious winner.The blade spins at a lower torque, and will stop if it hits an obstruction.For example like a careless boater who just happened to fall overboard.A gas motor will cut you to ribbons unless you have a safety switch that will turn it off if you fall overboard.Neither of my motors have any kind of safety switch.If I fall overboard my boat will happily motor off without me.The gas motor also has safety problems with fueling and storage of gas.Although the electric engine involves batteries with possible acid related problems you can get more expensive and safer gel batteries, or seal the battery in a separate compartment.

 

REFUEL/RECHARGE-

Refueling a gas motor is as easy as pouring the gas into the tank.Anywhere you can come ashore near civilization you can probably find a gas station with gas.Recharging an electric engines battery involves finding an electric plug in near water.Not a common occurrence unless you are going to a marina.You also require the appropriate charger, and a great deal of time.Deep cycle batteries do not usually charge quickly.It usually takes a few hours.

 

DEPENDABILITY-

The electric trolling motor is the ultimate in dependability.It either works or doesnít.There is no fiddling with chokes, knobs, airflow, or spark plugs.If your electric engine is hooked up to a properly charged battery, and doesnít work there is nothing that is going to make it work.Even when I went out for a run in my boat where I only intended to use the gas engine I still bought the electric motor.I always knew that if all else went wrong I could always depend on it to get me home.Another point is what happens when the blade of the engine strikes something hard like a rock.I often like to explore in areas Iíve never been before where the water is shallow.In cases like this if the blade of my electric engine hits a rock the blade stops spinning.I turn off the motor, tilt it up and then use a push pole to go past the obstruction, put the engine back in the water and continue on my way.If I go into shallow water with my gas engine and hit a rock, I always break the shear pin.With my total lack of mechanical skill this means the end of the trip till I can get someone else to fix it.Even if I had the knowledge to replace the pin it would still be a problem because Iím still in the shallow water I was in when I broke the engine, and a push pole is not the greatest way to travel a distance.

 

LONG RANGE TRIPS-

This is definitely one of the more complicated topics of comparison.If you are depending on your engine for long-range travel the answer is obvious.You have to use gas.No boat could operate for any length of time an electric alone.However if youíre primary mode of power is sail then which engine to bring, as a backup becomes a much more complicated affair. The only thing you are probably going to use your engine for is the occasionally maneuver into or out of wherever you stop.The short range of an electric engine is not going to be a problem. The batteries serve double use as providing power for any navigations lights, and other electrically powered systems your boat may use.On the other hand gasoline can be problematic in storing, and has no other use then powering your engine.Also if you only plan on only occasional use of your electric engine you can extend your operating life with alternate means of energy such as solar cells, or a wind generator.

 

SALT WATER-

Most gas engines can be used in salt water without problem.You should flush them out with fresh water after use, but they happily chug away without a problem.Only very special and very expensive electric trolling motors will operate in salt water.The less expensive models have many warnings about never using them in salt water.

 

USING YOUR ENGINE TO ASSIST YOUR SAILS-

This is a controversial practice where some people like to use their engines for very short periods of time to assist in maneuvers such as tacking or for improving the performance of their sails in very light winds.Although either type of engine can probably be used equally well in assisting the sails in light winds I find the noise of the gas engine interferes with the thrill of sailing.The noise also makes it harder to listen for the telltale sounds of the sails you need to hear when setting them.Supposedly it is not good for a gas engine to start and stop it a lot.You are supposed to always leave it running long enough for it to warm up before shutting it down.If this were true it make it impractical to use for assisting sailing maneuvers where you would only need the engine for a minute or two.With a electric engine however it does no harm to run it for as little as one second at a time however many times it is needed.

 

CONCLUSION-

Which type of engine is best?I think that the answer to that question is the same as if you had asked which type of boat is best.It depends on you needs, and wants.I love the quiet and serenity of the electric engine.Also the dependability cannot be beaten.However the joy is short lived.The gas engine is more powerful, and provides this power for as long as you can keep the tank filled.The solution for me at least was obvious.I had to have them both.Since few people carry two engines around your solution will probably be different.However I hope that the information I provided can help you to make a more informed decision.

 

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