Skip to content

A Question About the Capacity (and Range) of Electric Outboard Motors on Daysailers

Hobart Bartshire, a shipwright from San Rafael, first contacted us several years ago when we started writing about our new-to-us-at-the-time Columbia Challenger Esprit. It was satisfying to know that we, and our 54-year-old boat, had a “following.” Hobart is also a student of climate science, and wrote us recently with a question about electric motors.

“I’m way behind on reading Lat 38s, and only opened the April ’22 copy recently to find your report on electric propulsion for boats, where you wrote, ‘Gunning said that in this day and age, not having an electric motor in a daysailer is almost silly.'” Hobart was referring to Mike Gunning, the co-owner of Electric Yachts.

“Does that mean the daysailer you had at Lowrie Harbor could have been fitted with an electric motor able to push it all the way out the Canal and [into] the open Bay, then back to Lowrie at the end of a sail? My 22-ft daysailer seems way too heavy for the available electric outboards.”

The Columbia Challenger Esprit makes her way back to the San Rafael Canal and past the Marin Islands (right) some years ago. How much weight is too much for modern electric outboards?
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim Henry

“Am I mistaken, and need some enlightenment? The 4.5 Evinrude two-cycle kicker I have now is barely adequate. Any suggestions about such a dilemma?”

That is a great question, but we don’t know the answer. The Columbia 24 Challengers “displaced 3,930 pounds and carried 1,800 pounds of lead ballast,” according to the Wikipedia page.

Can today’s electric outboard motors handle that kind of weight? Motoring down the San Rafael Canal generally took about 20 to 25 minutes; it was possible to sail some of it, but not the entire thing, as the wind angles changed quite a bit, and the channel was very narrow back then. (It has since been dredged.)

What say you, Latitude Nation? Does anyone have first- (or second- or third-) hand experience with electric outboards on daysailers?

Please comment below, or email us here.


  1. Glen L Melnik 9 months ago

    For 8 years I had a Santana 22 that I powered with electric motors in the Estuary. I first used a 12 volt motor, but after a year I replaced that with a 24 volt motor powered by two group 31 AGM batteries in series. I charged the batteries with two 100 watt solar panels. During the day, I could motor almost indefinitely because the solar panels could keep up with the battery draw. At night, I probably had the range of about 4 miles, depending on how fast I went. The system worked flawlessly.

  2. Chris White 9 months ago

    There are more than a few cruising size catamarans with electric power. The motors can certainly be adequate it’s finding the required electricity that’s the limiting factor. Batteries are heavy and expensive. So range is often quite restricted.
    Pushing a boat through water is like driving a truck up hill. Lots of energy needed.

  3. Rick Samuels 9 months ago

    I have a Merit 25 (2,900 lbs) on which I use a Torqeedo 1103. Works fine against 3 kt Columbia River Spring current.

  4. Joel Bartlett 9 months ago

    20+ years ago we had an Alerion Express 20 in Redwood City that had a 12-volt electric outboard. It had 2 12-volt lead acid batteries and a flexible solar panel on the stern. We never had to plug it in to charge and it never let us down, including a long slow motor in the dark (with running lights on) back from the San Mateo bridge on a windless night that caught a number of us out on the bay. In calm seas, the weight of the boat is not the issue, it’s the drag. A heavy boat might take a while to get going, but it doesn’t take much to keep a low drag boat going.

  5. Maryann Hinden 9 months ago

    I have a Harbor 20, outfitted with its standard electric motor. It is useful for getting in and out of the slip, but I have never really tested its range. I’m not sure it is powerful enough to stand up to a strong ebb flow, or a long distance. I would love to get suggestions on how to determine the range, or what kind of meter I could use to watch how much power is being drained.

Leave a Comment

Pick Up that Plastic
The planet doesn't care what weekend you choose to clean it up. Last weekend, Brooks Island got a buffing from planetary caretakers, and there are more opportunities tomorrow for Costal Cleanup.