Monday, December 30, 2013

THE ELECTRIC PADDLE: Part Two: Capt. Mike's Review

When it looked like the costs of trying to resuscitate the Honda 2HP outboard drowned by superstorm Sandy were going to head upward by several hundred dollars. I decided it was time to move on. Since I had already converted BIANKA to electric propulsion getting an electric outboard seemed like the logical choice. As I explained in the previous post I did not use the gas powered Honda too often. Using it mostly when the winds would make rowing the dingy tough if not impossible and some occasional gunkholing. Though it was under thirty pounds moving it on board and installing it in the dingy was sometimes dicey. So when looking at the alternatives I had several choices for an Electric outboard. There were trolling motors. Though they required that I carry a hefty battery on board to use it. A Torqueedo outboard which are nice though a little pricy for my needs. Finally,  there was the Electric Paddle made by PropEle Electric Boat Motors. It was an electric outboard I was intrigued with it since I first blogged about it several years ago. It seemed to be the right fit for my needs so I bought one:

As you can see it is small enough to fit on the cabin table along with the battery pack, charger and the spares that come with it. It is very light and compact and is much easier to stow under the cockpit without the worry of leaking oil and other fluids. It was about two hundred dollars more than a new Honda BF2 outboard would be. But, there are no oil changes, zincs, lower lube or winterization costs like with the gas powered Honda. It also means I need to carry less gasoline on board. Indeed maintenance seems to only involve dipping the lower unit into a bucket of fresh water and letting it drain.

It's designed for propelling small yacht tenders, rowboats, canoes, kayaks and sailing dinghies less than 9 feet long and under 800 pounds when loaded. So it looked like it would work well with my 8 foot Porta Boat and it does.

Both the Electric Paddle and it's 24 volt battery pack  fit very nice and compact on the transom. The battery pack hangs suspended on the locking handle out of the way and off the bottom of the dingy. There is no concern it will be sliding around if the boat gets hit by a wake. The motor and battery pack each weigh only eight pounds and are much easier to install on the dingy than the 28 pound Honda gas outboard. I am able to hold it in one hand and still have one hand for the boat. I never felt it or me had the possibility of going overboard while trying to attach it to the transom in rough conditions. PropEle also make a 12 volt Electric Paddle without battery or charger too.

It has a magnetic key attached to a lanyard that inserts into the steering handle and stops if it is pulled out. It also has a safety start feature in that the motor will not start unless the throttle is first turn to the off position. So that there is no sudden unplanned forward movement when inserting the key. Another nice thing about electric outboards is unlike small gas outboards you won't knock out your passengers or spouses teeth when pulling the starter cord because there is none. A turn of the throttle and you are moving. Connection between the motor and the battery pack is with a secure waterproof connector:

 I've left the Electric Paddle hooked in the dingy during several rainstorms with no ill effects. I've also inadvertently left the throttle control laying in water in the bottom of the dingy when I tilted the unit up and it has not caused any problem. That's because the design uses waterproof magnetic hall effect sensors for the control.  Adjusting the tilt of the Electric Paddle is very easy as shown in this video:

Note: You don't have to be in the water to make the adjustment. It was just easier to get a good camera angle for the video.

Another nice feature is the ability to slide the shaft and prop up in the bracket when tilting the motor up:

This makes it easier to reach the prop to clear it of weeds. Though the Joe Grez the Industrial Product Designer who designed the Electric Paddle said usually all one has to do it power the prop a second or two once it is out of the water and any debris goes spinning off easily. Speaking of props the Electric Paddle uses a large diameter, high pitch, high aspect prop like those used on propeller airplanes. But, Electric Paddle uses one that is specifically designed to be efficient at lower RPM's needed for pushing a boat through the water.

When using the Electric Paddle I have recorded speed tests of 2.2 miles per hour using the GPS app on my cell phone:

Which is just .1 MPH below the minimum specs the manual says I should be getting. Though playing around with the tilt angle may improve that. I'm still very happy with it's performance.

The Electric Paddle comes with an extra magnetic key, key for the motor lock, spare cotter pin and prop.

Having used the Electric Paddle during this past season I have to admit I'm getting a little spoiled. I've been using it more and rowing less. In part because it is so much easier to carry and install than the old gas outboard. I've used the Electric Paddle outboard more in just this past season than I have the old gas outboard in the past five years. I'm sure I'll be using it more in the future. I don't miss the old outboard at all. It was a gas guzzler and very noisy. The Electric Paddle is quiet enough to be able to have a quick conversation while passing other moored boats without slowing down. Because it is so quiet it makes great for gunkholing and bird watching.  To charge the battery pack requires 120 volts but, it can be charged with an on board inverter that is only 200 watts or larger.

In short if you are use to speeding across the harbor with a 15 HP outboard doing 15 knots in a 12 foot inflatable sitting over the gas tank with a cigarette dangling from your mouth. Then the Electric Paddle is not for you. But, if you need a quiet,reliable, low maintenance,  easy to store and carry electric propulsion system for the dingy to get back and forth to the dock at speeds that won't get you in trouble with the Harbor Police then it might be just the thing. You can also use it on your  Kayak or Canoe too so it's more versatile than the gas outboard too . For my needs the Electric Paddle gets the Capt. Mike thumbs up. It's a welcome addition on board BIANKA. One that I'll be using more than the old gas outboard.


Skip said...

How has the Electric Paddle held up over the past two seasons. You use it with the protabote, no?

Capt. Mike said...

I did have an issue with the throttle/tiller arm late this season. It detached but, the throttle was still functional. I just pushed it back in but, it was not fully secured. Though it was totally usable. I contacted the Electric Paddle and they repaired it under warranty at no cost to me. Pretty impressive customer service IMO. Still very glad I bought it.

Skip said...

Thanks Mike!! They also don't give any thrust figures for the engine. We have about 3 knots of current between my island summer home and the mainland, so I am wondering if it has much grunt? Do you have any idea of how much thrust it produces? I wrote to them , but never received a response.

Anonymous said...

I can do about two knots with my eight foot Portaboat so you might need to give it a little assist perhaps with some rowing. Though it would depend on your boat. I could probably only do three knots with my Honda. Though it was much heavier and noisier.

Capt. Mike

Anonymous said...

I found out that it has the equivalent of 30lbs , much like the trolling motor I currently use.

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