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Wave of the Future: The Rise of Mercury Marine's Electric Technology

An on-the-water look at Mercury's Avator electric outboard motor.

Wave of the Future: The Rise of Mercury Marine's Electric Technology

On-the-water tests for the Mercury Avator 35e electric outboard motor took place at the Lake X facility in Central Florida.

  • Steve Dougherty is the Managing Editor of Florida Sportsman magazine

Years ago, I explored the Withlacoochee River with a BOTE paddleboard outfitted with a 9.9 hp gas-powered outboard. The addition of a tiller motor turned the 14-foot SUP into an immensely versatile micro skiff, reaching a top speed of 15 mph and significantly improving on my paddle-powered range. However, the noisy pull-to-start outboard left something to be desired amid the silence of the river.

The introduction of electric outboards is not a recent development. Torqeedo has been delivering electric outboards since 2005. Their Cruise 6.0T tiller, which is equivalent to a 9.9 hp, weighs 47 pounds. The 1P67-rated 5,000w battery pack weighs 80 pounds and can reach full charge in two hours.

Mercury Marine’s recent entry into the electric domain hints at future developments from established manufacturers of conventional outboard engines. My first encounter with Mercury’s Avator electric outboard occurred at Lake X in November 2022 where select media experienced the release of the world’s first V10 outboard. While the focus was on testing the all-new 400 hp outboard, a live working model of the Avator 7.5e was not to be overlooked.

electric boat motor
A comparable 9.9 hp equivalent, the Torqeedo Cruise 6.0T electric outboard retails for $4,898 (battery not included).

Several months later, at the Miami International Boat Show, the Avator 7.5e made a public appearance on the convention center show floor. It was mounted to the transom of a 13-foot VEER rotomolded skiff. This setup with 382-pound hull weight provides 60 minutes of runtime or 5 miles at a constant full throttle with a fully charged 1kWh lithium-ion battery. Operation extends to 19 hours or 34 miles at a more conservative 25-percent throttle.

Fast forward to December 2023, and I was back at Lake X testing the Avator 35e affixed to a 13-foot Mako Pro Skiff. Shared design attributes among all three Avator models (7.5e, 20e, and 35e) comprise transverse flux motor technology, a vibrant full-color display, and a tiller handle that adjusts effortlessly in various directions for comfortable steering sitting or standing. Remote control throttle is an available feature for all three models, which generate 750w, 2200w, and 3700w of power at the prop shaft. They are each available in 15-, 20-, or 25-inch shaft lengths.

Mercury bulletins report the 20e delivers acceleration on par with a 5 hp four-stroke outboard, while the 35e provides acceleration similar to a 9.9 hp outboard. Both the 20e and 35e electric outboards weigh 47 pounds, and the 2.3kWh battery contributes an extra 48 pounds.

The Avator 20e has the capability to operate on a single power cell. But for the Avator 35e to reach its maximum power, two 2.3kWh batteries are required. The Avator Power Center, exclusive to Mercury, facilitates the pairing of up to four batteries, managing the integration of power, enabling communication among the batteries and the outboard, and facilitating single-point charging. While the conventional 230w charger needs 10 hours for a complete charge, Mercury plans to unveil a 520w charger that reduces charging time to 4.5 hours.

inside a boat
Traditional fuel tank was replaced by the Avator Power Center and twin 2.3kWh batteries.

For our sea trial at the renowned Lake X in mid-December, the entire Florida peninsula faced unusual weather extremes due to an out-of-season tropical low, unleashing gale-force winds and intense downpours. The lake was white capping, providing what, in my opinion, were optimal conditions for testing. Following a brief introduction from Patrick Reinke, the eSolutions Category Manager at Mercury Marine, we were off.

On the Mako Pro Skiff there were two 2.3kWh batteries, designed exclusively for Avator, boasting an IP67 rating for water resistance. The dashboard-mounted LCD display facilitated the easy monitoring of throttle position and power usage. Engaging the 35e at full throttle amid tropical-storm winds with two 175-pound adults onboard propelled the 13-foot Mako Pro Skiff, weighing 640 pounds, to a top speed of 4.5 mph upwind. It consumed 4.4 kW, offering an estimated range of 4.5 miles and an approximate run time of 47 minutes. Notably, the range sees a substantial improvement as the throttle is reduced.




Electric outboards provide a significant benefit in terms of quiet operation and decreased maintenance compared to their gasoline counterparts. There is no requirement for oil changes, or issues with water pumps and thermostats. The primary challenges persist in the realms of range and cost. Anticipated MSRP for the Avator 35e, without batteries, is $4,930, but increasing competition and advancements in battery technology should help to address these challenges.

fishing boat electronics
Mako Pro Skiff with Avator 35e, available in tiller and remote steer models.

We will have more to report soon, with Mercury recently revealing 75e and 110e Avator models at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2024, showcasing the Fond-du-lac, Wis., team’s dedication to establishing itself as a leader in electric marine propulsion.

Do I envision full electric dominance in the outboard market in the near future? Certainly not. The substantial cost and weight of batteries pose significant barriers, although advancements are occurring more swiftly in Europe, driven by heightened environmental awareness, regulation and consumer acceptance.

Recommended


Nevertheless, for Florida’s no-motor-zones and applications where skiffs, aluminum johnboats and other small platforms are the craft of choice, today’s electric outboards present a compelling argument.


This article was featured in the March issue of Florida Sportsman magazine. Click to subscribe.

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