Does a Boat Motor Charge the Battery? (Explained)
If you own a car, you probably know that a car engine charges the car battery when it runs. But does your boat motor work the same way?
A boat motor charges the battery when it runs by using an alternator to replenish the battery. However, the battery loses energy every time the boat starts, and the engine only replenishes a certain amount of electricity. The engine only charges the battery when it runs and will not charge it fully.
In this article, I will tell you how marine batteries operate, explain the different types of marine batteries, and tell you how to charge marine batteries to ensure the battery lives up to its expected life cycle. Read on to learn more.
How a Marine Battery Operates
A boat battery is called a marine or deep-cycle battery. While you can technically use an automotive battery in a boat, this isn’t always the best choice.
Marine batteries are sturdier and designed to withstand being out on the water. They are heavy-duty, designed to last longer, and offer a more reliable starting charge than an automotive battery.
The marine battery holds a specific amount of electrical energy. Within the battery are cells that contain a positive electrode and a negative electrode that sits in an electrolyte gel. A chemical reaction occurs when electricity touches the cells. As ions flow one way and electrons flow the opposite way, this action causes electricity to flow through the cell and to the connected circuit.
The electricity in the circuit provides power for the engine to start. This short burst of electricity must be replaced, and this is the job of the boat engine.
How Marine Battery Charging Systems Work
A marine charging system consists of the battery, alternator, voltage regulator, cables, and wires. This system converts the engine’s mechanical energy into electrical energy through the alternator. When this happens, the power from the battery used to start the engine is replaced.
In the charging system alternator is a voltage regulator. The voltage regulator prompts the alternator to switch on and charge the battery as the voltage drops.
The alternator uses magnetism to generate electricity that passes through a wire in the magnetic field. The magnetic field spins around copper wires in the alternator’s rotor, producing electricity. Once the current reaches a proper level, the alternator shuts off.
When the voltage regulator indicates that the battery’s electrical storage is low, it turns the alternator on to replace the energy in the battery.
Types of Marine Batteries
Of course, you want your marine batteries to last as long as possible and live up to their life cycle ratings. However, there are important things you need to keep in mind to increase the longevity of your marine batteries. Just like car batteries, they need adequate maintenance habits.
To ensure the battery lasts as long as possible, you need to understand the charging process and how low the battery can get before it needs recharging. Here are some facts about a marine battery to help your battery work efficiently and last as long as possible.
- Allowing the battery to fall below a 50% charge will shorten the battery life and reduce the charging capacity.
- Letting the battery drop below 50% means an extra-long recharging time.
- Ensure maximum battery efficiency by limiting the discharge level to between 50 and 80%.
If you have an inboard or outboard boat engine that was built within the past 20 years or so, the alternator will recharge the battery when the motor is running and you won’t have to worry about your battery falling below these levels.
If, however, you have an older boat motor or your marine battery hasn’t been used recently and has become depleted, you will need to recharge the battery manually.
When it is necessary to manually recharge a marine battery, choose a Smart battery charger as it will do all the work for you. Most boat manufacturers recommend buying a battery charger that charges at 20-25% of your marine battery amperage.
The Schumacher SC1280 Fully Automatic Battery Charger (Amazon) is a popular model you can use to charge both your boat and auto batteries.
The 3-Step Battery Charging Process
- In the Bulk stage, the charger delivers the maximum charge possible. The charger stays in bulk charging until the battery reaches 75-80% of the charge. A Smart battery charger will deliver the charge until it reaches the specified level and then drops into the absorption stage to preserve the battery’s life.
- The Absorption stage is the topping-off stage where the charger slowly fills the deep battery interior. This stage lasts until the battery is 90-95% charged.
- The final Float stage ensures the battery reaches a full charge without overcharging. A marine battery can remain in the float stage indefinitely until you are ready to use the battery for a day of boating.
When your boat is not in use, keeping the battery on a trickle charge will help to maintain the battery life.
Electric Jet Skis: Overview
Jet skis are generally available in either ‘sit down’ or ‘stand up’ styles, where, as you could guess, the user operates the jet ski sitting down or standing up. While sit-down jet skis can hold two or more passengers, stand-up jet skis are operated by only one user. They are commonly used for competitive use, as well as performing tricks and in races.
Jet skis are usually used for recreational purposes, and run on an engine that powers a pump jet with an impeller for propulsion through the water. Traditionally they are powered by gas, but electric jet skis, on the other hand, are powered by… yes, electricity! Still, they’re definitely not for the casual buyer, since they come at a premium price. But if you’re in the market for one, then you probably know this.
When considering an electric jet ski, there are certain parameters you should be aware of.
While many people think electric jet skis will inevitably be slower than their gas-powered counterparts, this is not necessarily the case. They actually have much more torque than those running on petrol. For example, Taiga’s offering, the Orca, can reach max speeds of 65mph.
Most jet skis have a speed range of around 40 to 70 mph, with entry-level models towards the lower end and higher-end models reaching greater speeds. However, typical speeds are generally around the 50mph mark. While you can perform upgrades to lift the speed restriction, the US coastguard actually caps jet ski speed at 70mph by law.
Therefore, this is a very competitive max speed from the Orca, and currently unmatched – by comparison, the GT95 Electrojet from Narke only has a reported top speed of 43mph. But Narke has, temporarily at least, paused production on this watercraft.
Usually, an average jet ski can travel somewhere between 60 to 120 miles on a full tank of gas, using around 3 to 4 gallons of gas per hour. In the case of electric jet skis, the possible distance is relatively lower, with the Orca coming in at around 30 miles of max distance when being driven enthusiastically around top speeds.
Still, since the experience of speed typically feels greater on a jet ski than on an on-the-road vehicle, these speeds are usually more than sufficient for first-time and accustomed buyers alike.
It should come as no surprise that electric jet skis come at a high cost. New jet skis can be priced anywhere in the range of 5,000 to around 20,000 depending on the model. Stand-up jet skis are generally cheaper than sit-down ones. But, as previously mentioned, they only have the capacity for one person.
Electric jet skis can be significantly more expensive – the Electrojet demands a mammoth 47,000, although those from Taiga are more affordable. There are three options on sale: the more economical Orca Sport (around 15,000), the Orca Performance (17,500), and the Orca Carbon (24,000). Concerning cost, it’s a much smarter choice to go with a Taiga jet ski.
Charging Time and Battery Life
Battery life is a key factor when purchasing an electric jet ski as, unsurprisingly, they can only run as long as their battery has power. Fortunately, most electric jet skis are very efficient in this regard.
While the Electrojet offers up to 2 hours runtime on a 1.5-hour fast charge, Taiga beats out the competition with their three products sharing the same outstanding charge times, reaching 80% capacity with a fast charge of 20 minutes. From a level 2 EV charger, like the one you may have at home, the Orca models charge in around 3.5 hours and about 14 hours from a standard outlet.
Practically, this is still effective, as you’re likely to leave the vehicle charging overnight once you’re finished using it for the day. Taiga’s Orcas provide a competitive runtime, around the same as the Electrojet from Narke.
As previously discussed, electric models don’t compromise on performance whatsoever, matching and even outperforming many petrol-powered jet skis. This is surely a big benefit, especially if you’re looking for a jet ski with max performance capabilities.
One of the biggest bonuses that come with electric jet skis is undoubtedly their lower emissions. While many electric jet skis are touted as having ‘zero emissions’, this is sadly not the case in reality. Manufacturing obviously requires raw materials, and energy usage, while running them requires electricity production (which is still mainly from natural gas and coal).
These all produce a significant amount of pollution. Adding to this, eventually, the battery will need to be replaced, compounding the environmental impact. Once you’ve also considered maintenance, such as cleaning and towing the vehicle, it’s easy to say that electric jet skis just aren’t as close to zero emissions as they appear.
Taiga Orca: The First Electric Jet Ski on the Market
Aside from Narke’s GT95 Electrojet, the Taiga Orca electric jet skis are pretty much the only other option available right now for purchase. Being the first to be released, they’ve certainly made a name for themselves.
Having a top speed of 65mph, the Orca models are, without a doubt, the fastest electric jet skis on the market. Horsepower ranges from 120 for the most economical Sport model, to 180 HP for the higher-end Performance and Carbon models. Comparatively, non-supercharged traditional models reach between 60 to 180 HP, so the Orca skis are competitive in this regard.
Concerning weight, the Orca models come in slightly heavier than their counterparts at around 740 lbs. Gas-powered skis generally sit at around 500 to 700 lbs. You likely won’t notice the extra weight, however, as the Orca range is renowned for being agile and nimble.
As well as being available in three models, there are also three operating modes to use with the Orca – ‘Range,’ ‘Sport,’ and ‘Wild.’ The range provides around 50 HP, remarkably cutting down on power, while the Sport and Wild modes both deliver incremental increases in power.
You’re not likely to reach full horsepower with the Wild mode due to safety constraints, but it will definitely feel more than enough when you’re hitting the water. Another bonus of the Orca range is the digital dashboard.
This high-resolution dashboard provides Bluetooth connectivity, GPS speed, and mapping, as well as configurable power and acceleration modes. In terms of a uniquely customized user experience, this is an unparalleled feature.
Electric or Gas: Which Should I Choose?
Ultimately, your purchasing decision rests on your individual needs and budget. In an ideal world, we’d simply purchase the best possible jet ski with minimal maintenance. As you can tell by now, this isn’t really the case.
But in terms of overall usability, affordability, and experience, electric jet skis are pulling ahead in the race. Maintenance is a lot simpler and costs are a lot lower long-term. What’s more, a simple charge after a couple of hours of fun is easier to manage than lugging gas canisters down to the water.
And as far as performance goes, the jet skis from Orca are as competitive as they come, delivering just as much of a thrilling experience as you might be after from a petrol-powered model.
Featured Boat Care Product
Check Price on Amazon. Better Boat’s deck cleaner is a non-slip formula designed to quickly and efficiently break down dirt and grime on fiberglass and painted decks. Pair it with deck brush heads and extension poles for an easy application.
Also known as a regulator, the charge controller is what puts the energy into your battery. It’s very possible to have a solar panel without one. But you’ll want to make sure you choose a panel that comes with a charge controller.
Charge controllers are necessary if the panel is more than five watts. The best thing about the charge controller is that it can store the energy for later use. A solar panel alone needs sunlight to work.
The solar panel is the part that collects the energy from the sun. You’ve likely seen them on house rooftops. They’re becoming more and more prevalent on boats.
Pulse Width Modulation
Pulse width modulation (PWM) is the temperature compensation that protects the battery from things like overcharging and frequent charging. This is a must-have safety and efficiency feature. You don’t want to have to go out and buy new batteries every Monday.
Self-regulating boat solar battery chargers don’t have a built-in controller. Every boater is different, of course, but anything built-in is a positive feature in my opinion.
Plastic and Aluminum Construction
Plastic and aluminum mean less breakage and more weather resistance. Wind, sun and saltwater (and water in general) can be rough on any piece of boating gear as well as anchors, ratchet straps and dock lines.
Types of Solar Battery Chargers for Boats
- Trickle Chargers provide a very low level of output by continuously releasing a small amount of power to charge the battery as you use it
- Float Chargers are similar to the trickle charger, but they prevent overcharging (this type is my pick for the best all-around solar battery charger)
So, we’ve come to the conclusion that solar battery chargers are a great investment for liveaboards, recreational boat and even fishing kayaks and jet skis.
Let’s take a look at some examples for purchasing options.
Eco Worthy Portable Folding Solar Charger and Panel
The Eco Worthy Folding Solar Panel comes pre-wired and pre-installed with a 15 Amp PWM solar charge controller that protects from overcharging and reverse connections. The high-efficiency monocrystalline solar cell is made of lightweight aluminum.
Its suitcase-style design makes it easy to transport. When you get where you’re going, just unfold and set it up.
The charge controller has waterproof integrated junction boxes, and there’s a corrosion-resistant frame on the panel.
This is a nice mid-sized panel and solar battery charger. Best part? All that pre-wiring and pre-installing makes it ready to use right out of the box.
- Size: 30.7 x 22.1 x 5.1
- Charger Type: Float Charger
- Panel Type: Monocrystalline
HQST Solar Battery Charger and Panel
The HQST provides quiet power production for 12 and 24-volts in marine and other outdoor and off-the-grid environments. It has a 30A PWM LCD charge controller with LCD display, 20-foot adapter cables and a set of Z-brackets for mounting.
It can charge a 50Ah battery from 50% in three hours (depending on the sunlight, of course). Pre-drilled holes make the panel easy to install. You can expand your solar system by connecting other panels for even more energy output.
- Size: 40 x 27 x 1.5
- Charger Type: Trickle Charger
- Panel Type: Polycrystalline
POWISER Solar Battery Charger and Panel
The POWISER 3.3W is an easy-to-connect and use trickle charger. It has polycrystalline high-efficiency solar cells with thin amorphous panels that allow it to be used in any weather.
Compact in size, it’s perfect for jet skis and small boats. It even comes with suction cups to attach to your boat’s window. I really like the compact size and shape of this solar panel and battery charger.
- Size: 14 x 8.5 x 0.8
- Charger Type: Trickle Charger
- Panel Type: Polycrystalline
SOLPERK 12V Solar Battery Charger and Panel
The SOLPERK 12V Solar Panel is a trickle charger. It charges and maintains 12V batteries like Wet, Gel, MF and many more. The automatic charging and maintenance controller provides protection against short circuits, open circuits, reverse and overcharging.
It’s lightweight and easy to install on jet skis and small boats. The best thing about the SOLPERK? It has thin film amorphous solar cells that allow it to work on cloudy days. Win/Win!
- Size: 21.3 x 18.2 x 1.2
- Charger Type: Trickle Charger
- Panel Type: Amorphous solar cells
Sunway Solar Solar Battery Charger
Small and compact, the Sunway Solar Battery Trickle Charger slowly charges and maintains battery power levels in Wet, Gel, Deep Cycle and AGM batteries. A built-in diode protects against reverse charging.
Crystalline panels have clear PV glass and ABS plastic housing for efficiency and durability. The long rectangular shape of the Sunway makes it a good choice for mounting on a dash or bow of the boat.
The charger maintainer has a cigarette lighter adapter and alligator battery terminal clips.
Cleaning Solar Panels
As with any boating accessory, cleaning and general maintenance are needed for solar panels. Luckily, it’s not too hard. Rainfall is a handy thing to have in this case. For more in-depth cleaning, here are a few tips.
- Use a soft brush to swipe away any caked-on dirt, grime and the inevitable bird droppings. You may need an extension rod for this job.
- Next, get out that garden hose and spray away. A boat hose nozzle with an adjustable water stream is an excellent tool to have. You don’t want to shoot your panels with a heavy stream of water.
- A microfiber sponge or cloth is helpful if there are still stains and dirt to scrap away.
- Using soap is not suggested as it can leave a residue that will attract dirt. Try a small amount of Better Boat Boat Soap to see how it does with your particular solar panels. It’s 100% biodegradable and designed to rinse clean and residue free.
As you can see, you have a lot of choices when it comes to keeping batteries charged out on the water. Hopefully, this has shed some light (pun intended) on your boat solar battery charger questions.
May the wind be at your back and your batteries always be full.
What does trickle charging mean?
During off-seasons, it’s advisable that most batteries be trickle charged and stored in an area not exposed to extreme cold. Trickle charging a jet ski means removing the battery from whatever housing it’s in. Once the battery is out of the jet ski it should be attached to a trickle charger and stored in a cool, dry, place. Trickle charging jet ski batteries is one of the easiest ways to get the most use out of it. As the name suggests, trickle charging slowly charges your battery over an extended period without overcharging it.
- It uses renewable, free energy
- It can be used anywhere
- It’s portable
- It’s quick and easy to use
Obviously, being solar powered it will work much better in places with more sunlight, but it should still work on overcast days too. The choice really comes down to where you keep your jet ski stored.
Be sure to follow these tips, and your jet ski will run just as good in April as it did in August.
Is there a charger that you can’t be without? We’d love to hear all about it in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев section!