Named ‘EClassboats‘ the Australia electric outboards manufacturer has launched after 10 years in development and is ready to introduce the nation to the joys of e-boating with a range of 3.7kW to 12kW (5hp – 15hp) motors and accompanying batteries.
The company brings together two people with very different backgrounds. Lynelle Johnson is a former TV presenter, business writer and marketing consultant who has created over 19 partnerships to help address social issues like education for aboriginal people and disengaged students and a network to help young people enter the technology workforce.
Ron Kelly is an automotive engineer who loves the water and became an accredited manufacturer of Australian Surf Lifesaving boats, built speed boats and ocean kayaks, took up competitive team rowing and sailed in two Sydney to Hobart races – one of the most gruelling challenges in all yachting. It was his experience with the lifesaving boats that got Mr. Kelly experimenting with electric boat motors.
One of the biggest and most crucial tests a lifesaving boat faces is getting ‘out of the hole’ from shallow beach waters where it has to fight against the enormous power and weight of ocean waves to get out to the rescue scene as quickly as possible, when every second counts.
A big advantage that electric motors have over combustion motors is the initial take off. ICE motors need to rev up to an optimum speed to generate enough torque to get the boat moving, but electric motors can literally just ‘get up and go’.
Started tinkering in his garage
Like many people who have an idea, Kelly began tinkering away in his garage and started ripping apart 2 stroke gas outboards and replacing the power heads with electric motors. It’s similar to the path taken by Scott Masterson of Stealth Motors in Texas, whose 10 and 18kW outboards use standard Yamaha casings lower units.
It was basically a retirement hobby for Mr. Kelly, who is now 76, and as he improved the efficiency of his systems and started to match them up with different battery combinations, friends and acquaintances started asking to have their own 2-strokes refitted.
Ms. Johnson was looking for a new kid of socially responsible business – something that would be good for the environment – when she heard about Mr. Kelly, and with her marketing background she saw he had reached the point where his hobby could start to be commercialized.
Australia electric outboards market benefits from law
The piece that made everything fall into place was the Australian government deciding to adopt international small engine emissions standards in 2018 and ban the sale of 2-stroke gasoline boat motors.
So, ten years after his first experiment, Kelly joined forces with Johnson and EClass Outboards was born. The firm is based in Kiama, just south of Sydney and is proudly Australian.
The four motors offered are a 3.7kW, 5kW, 7kW and 9kW, which correspond to about 5, 7.5, 10 and 15 horsepower equivalents. While Mr. Kelly started out with ‘off the rack’ components, they are now commissioning their own lithium-ion batteries of 3, 4, 4.5 and 5 kWh capacity. The motor and battery packages range in price from AUS$ 7,600 to AUS$ 12,300 (US$ 5,800 – 9,400).
Ms. Johnson told local newspaper the Illawarra Mercury that batteries are matched with motors for “a minimum of 30 minutes at wide open throttle, which is about 90 minutes at mixed speeds. But you can buy whatever battery combination you need. People take out portable fuel tanks so it is really no different to take out a back-up battery.”
Leveraging the experience gathered when Mr. Kelly was doing his research, the company also has a very clever offer in which customers can get a trade-in value for their old two stroke motor, which EClass will refit as an electric.
“Make them affordable as a genuine choice”
The company’s practical approach to what boaters want is paying off with increasing demand for their motors up and down Australia’s east coast.
“We wanted to concentrate on replacing those two strokes that are polluting our waterways,” Johnson said. “The fisherman love the electric because of the instant torque for speed but also the ability to slow down as low as you like without worrying about maintaining that combustion engine idle.”
There are always the naysayers and people who prefer gas powered boats, but the EClass Outboards strategy of fitting electric motors to readily available standard casings is meant to get over the cost hurdle that prevents some from going electric. Kelly and Johnson both agree when they say “”Our aim is simple. Make electric outboards affordable enough that it is a genuine choice.”