Torqeedo Travel 1003 Electric Outboard: Banishing the Fumes
After a whiff of gas from an outboard engine sends this experienced circumnavigator in search of electric power, he files this report on his experiences with one model, the Torqeedo Travel 1003. Sail Green: Product Review from our December 2012 issue.
The joy of sailing. A finely balanced hull cutting through waves. Blue sky above. Salt spray sparkling across the bow. Warm breeze against skin. A delightful whiff of gasoline. Wait! Stop! And I did, upon noting the first sniff of gasoline that I’ve detected on any boat that I’ve owned, over a span of almost 40 years.
Gannet, the Moore 24 I bought in 2011, came with not one but two gasoline outboards. I thought I’d keep whichever was more reliable—until that first whiff. Moore 24s have open interiors with limited places to stow outboards and jerry jugs of gasoline below, and I keep my decks uncluttered. On a passage, I’d inevitably find myself sleeping next to the outboard and gasoline and oil. It wasn’t going to happen.
Although before I made my first circumnavigation in her, I sailed the engineless, 37-foot Egregious in and out of her slip in San Diego, having no engine on Gannet was not an option. Her then home, North Point Marina on Lake Michigan, near the Illinois/Wisconsin border, with 1,500 slips the biggest freshwater marina in the world, doesn’t permit “sailing, rowing, paddling, or sculling” inside the breakwater. Neither do many other marinas. You may have noticed that the world is falling apart. Perhaps that’s happening because it’s being run by powerboaters.
After some research, I ordered a German-made electric Torqeedo Travel 1003—and learned that it isn’t easy being green. Why? First, in this case, is cost, and second is range.
A Travel 1003 costs roughly $2,000, more than twice the price of a gas outboard of similar power, and has a range of 2 to 16 miles. The 2 miles is at full throttle, when the 520-watt-hour battery will be discharged in 30 minutes. The 16 miles is at low throttle, when the battery will last eight hours.
On the light and easily driven Gannet, I’ve found that at medium throttle, which provides a speed of 2.5 knots, the battery is good for about three hours and a distance of 7 miles. In practice, this means that in and out of the harbor twice leaves the battery close to needing to be recharged, a task that takes more than 23 hours. Even with a boat that sails well, this short range presents problems.
When coastal cruising, I want to be at the next harbor before dark, and I like to start early. Powering across smooth water at first light before the wind comes up has its charms. With the quiet but not completely silent Torqeedo—there’s a not unpleasant whirring sound—those charms aren’t much compromised. But not many miles are covered, either.
Torqeedo offers a possible solution: a solar panel that rolls up for storage and is said to provide unlimited range in bright sunlight. This panel costs $1,000. Nevertheless, I requested and received one for my 70th birthday. Being old has its compensations.