When you think of the emerging proliferation of electric vehicles (EVs), you’re likely to consider on-road automobiles and maybe even some off-road ones like ATVs, golf carts, or even tractors. But have you ever given any thought to on‑water electric vehicles? If not, you might be surprised to learn that EV’s are the wave of the future for marine travel.
The are several reasons for the tide turning in favor of electric motors for marine applications, which are similar to those of other EVs. Environmental concerns are often cited as the main impetus for moving away from gas and diesel outboard engines toward electric. Sailors for the Sea, an organization committed to cleaner waterways explains how gas and diesel engines affect the environment on their website, “all outboard, 2-stroke and even 4-stroke motors can lose 20 to 30 percent of their fuel as it passes straight through the combustion chamber unburned or partially burned, releasing it directly into the water and air as pollution.” Another related article found on Sustain Europe’s website, claims that “emissions testing done by the US EPA found that one hour of boat operation, even with a relatively “clean” engine meeting EPA 2006 regulations, produced the same pollution as about 50 cars at a similar ground speed.” For a growing number of consumers, the environmental impact of gas and diesel outboard engines is reaching a tipping point heralding a change in consumer behavior.
Electric outboard motors have many attributes boating enthusiasts are beginning to appreciate. They’re emission-free, don’t produce exhaust fumes and don’t inherently run the risk of fuel and oil spills. Additionally, they’re lower maintenance and quieter to run when compared to their gasoline/diesel powered counterparts. Although marine EVs are gaining wider acclaim, there are some obstacles to overcome before becoming fully mainstream. Historically, one of the biggest hurdles in wide adoption of electric motors for marine applications is battery life limitation. However, this sentiment is gradually changing along with the technology. According to a current article from BoatUS.com recent strides in lithium battery technology have significantly improved battery life to the point where “two to three hours of normal water sports activity” is entirely possible, making boats with electric motors a lot more attractive to consumers. Another challenge to the industry is the cost of the battery technology, itself, which “sometimes can cost more than the motor,” cites boatingmag.com. That said, the cost-of-ownership for a marine EV becomes more equitable when lower maintenance costs and fuel savings are considered – buying a marine EV is akin to purchasing your fuel upfront instead of as-you-go, which makes the overall cost-of-ownership more comparable. Additionally, as technology for electric outboards continues to evolve and as greater numbers of OEMs enter the EV marine market, prices are expected to become more affordable for a larger segment of buyers.
Even with its challenges, demand is growing for electric outboard engines. Global Market Insights, Inc., a market research company, “estimates the market valuation for electric outboard engines will surpass $175 million USD by 2027.” This is only a drop in the ocean, so to speak. In their research, Global Market Insights also reports the “National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) disclosed the gross output of outdoor recreational boating, fishing, and other water activities accounted for $42 billion USD in 2019. Outdoor recreational boating accounts for the highest gross output amongst outdoor recreational activities.”
In response to the sea change that regulatory actions and public sentiment are ushering in for marine EVs, Nidec Motion Control has developed our AquaForce™ series of fully enclosed, brushless DC high efficiency propulsion motors. Ranging from 1-15 HP with speeds up to 6,000 RPM and design voltages of 24-96V, our AquaForce M Series comes in four different stator sizes from 84 mm to 180 mm.