Temo, unique electric propulsion with ancient design roots

Temo 450 in action (photo ©Wind4production)
Temo 450 in action (photo ©Wind4production)

The Temo electric outboard is wildly different from any other design, but it makes sense on first sight, and more so when you dig into the details. It’s small boat propulsion in the simple format of a single sculling oar, a modern brushless electric prop drive in some ways as rudimentary as a third-world long tail. So while the boaters above are enjoying quiet and highly maneuverable thrust similar to what a Torqeedo 1003 has pleasantly provided me for years, they’ve got it in a significantly more compact and portable package.

I have not personally tested Temo electric propulsion, or even hefted the unusual 11-pound tubular form that’s somewhat hard to call an outboard. But the specifications look good, so do the demo videos, and you too may enjoy exploring the design influences.

The Temo 450 all-in-one design claims 26.5 pounds (12 KG) of maximum thrust from its 450W motor, which the company describes as “3 times more powerful than a single person rowing.” While I’m guessing that benchmark is based on hard-to-row inflatables, I’m also confident that 26.5 pounds of thrust will push a dinghy pretty well, even in chop and headwinds. That confidence is partially based on the latest Temo demo video, but mostly because my beloved Torqeedo Travel 1003‘s 70-pound thrust has easily pushed various small boats up to displacement speed with power to spare.

The ePropulsion Spirit Plus I tried last summer claims 71 pounds of maximum thrust, with the newer Torqeedo 1103C at 70, and all three of these “conventional” electric dinghy motors are described as equivalent to 3 hp gas outboards. So the Temo could be called about 1.25 hp ICE (internal combustion engine) equivalent, though electric power is always different from ICE in terms of torque (good explainer here). Delivering more power at low RPMs is why the 3hp electrics can propel larger small boats like full keel daysailers better than “equivalent” gas outboards, and also why e-outboards are great for slow speed maneuvering (besides for having reverse thrust).

The 42 minute full power runtime that Temo claims for its 290W lithium-ion battery pack — and 80 minutes at half speed — also rings true in my experience. In fact, my 540W Torqeedo battery still provides many minutes and miles of use per charge even though it’s over 8 years old. And a more specific comparison is with the range/speed/boat size estimates for the interesting EP Carry electric outboard, which uses a 246W battery to provide similar thrust (I think, as it’s not specified).

Temo telescopes from 51 inches to 67 inches
Temo telescopes from 51 inches to 67 inches

What’s obviously different about the Temo is how the electric power gets to the water, and how you control it. But the details seem well thought out. The included oarlock type fitting connects the prop thrust to the boat while providing a pivot point for steering, and the telescoping mechanism lets you adjust the steering balance and also twist the control handle with its speed trigger and forward/reverse button to your preferred position. The design also secures the motor — note that it won’t float without an optional buoyancy kit — and makes Temo even more compact once it’s time to take it home or stow it on the mother ship.

Temo has forward and reverse, and can be used without a stern mount
Temo has forward and reverse, and can be used without a mount

I also noticed that early versions of Temo did not include the pivot mount and, while that improvement makes sense for typical use, it seems quite possible to jump into any small boat and use a Temo handheld to push or pull it around as you please, even in shallow water. That’s Temo inventor Alexandre Seux showing what I mean in the November 2019 demo video screen captured above.

While Seux sailed in Southeast Asia and acknowledges the Thai long tail as one inspiration for Temo, it’s easy to understand why he thought that gentle electric dinghy propulsion could be managed without the long tail’s critical pivot point. It’s more about combining propulsion and steering with minimal extra mechanics, and also in a compact simple form like a sculling oar.

Well developed stern sculling goes back at least to ancient China and is still alive today, famously in Venice but also here in Maine. I sometimes see Ben Fuller making it look easy in the skiff he beautifully profiled in Small Boat Journal, and I miss Sam Manning‘s almost daily Camden dory ventures, though glad that some of Sam’s sculling expertise is documented.

Long-tail mud motors!
Long-tail mud motors!

Meanwhile, modernized Thai long tails are being wildly raced today (back story here), and the concept has also been adopted in the U.S. and elsewhere for what’s called mud boating. You can even purchase long tail mud motors on Amazon and the exciting/terrifying videos are many.

The Drill Paddle costs $60, BYOD
The Drill Paddle costs $60, BYOD

Actually it turns out that the wide, wide world of boating already included electric long tail propulsion, and even the $60 Drill Paddle already seems to have cheaper knockoff competition. It’s a goofy looking and low power concept for sure, but thanks to the growing cordless tool families, many of us already have fairly powerful drills and enough compatible lithium batteries (like my many 70W Ryobi One+ High Caps) to get somewhere.

Which reminds me that the Temo 450 battery apparently can’t be easily swapped out and there’s no state of charge indicator (unlike the ePropulsion 3hp electric outboard, and especially the Torqeedos, which also show realtime range) {Correction 1/12/21: Temo does have a 5 LED state of charge indicator}. On the other hand, there is a Temo 12v charger, so something like a Weego jump pack could be carried along for backup, and it’s easy to carry a Temo to a home or boat charging source.

Also, I certainly may have missed a design flaw in this Temo look from afar, plus there could be reliably issues that have not yet surfaced in such a new product. And the cost discourages experimentation. While the listed €1,450/$1,766 retail price is actually $1,471 when shipped (VAT-less) to the U.S., Temo does not yet have service/demo/sales representation on this continent (though they hope to).

Alexandre Seux, inventor of the Temo electric outboard
Alexandre Seux, inventor of the Temo electric outboard

I’m hoping that Temo can establish themselves in the U.S. and also that we’ll hear about hand’s-on experience from Temo owners wherever they are. But let’s celebrate the bigger picture of a small start-up company developing a smart green marine accessory in a difficult time. I can add that the DAME Jury virtually reviewed many worthy new products before giving Temo the R&D in Adversity Award. Do you think we made a good choice?

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

10 Responses

  1. Donald Joyce says:

    It strikes me as a great idea and apparently well executed.
    Happy New Year!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Good. But pricey.

  3. Peter Geise says:

    Thanks for that fun link explaining electric, diesel, gas horsepower versus torque.
    Now I understand why the Ford Lehman agriculture tractor diesel engine in my trawler works so well.

  4. Doug Day says:

    ahh, finally an answer to not having to row the air home from Stonington to Swan’s Island when i’m becalmed on the windsurfer!

  5. Rick Garvin says:

    Is there anyway to lock this to the dinhy when I leave the dink at the dinghy dock?

  6. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Don’t know how I missed it, but good news that the Temo 450 does have a 5 LED state of charge indicator right on the control handle. I also just spoke over Zoom with Alexandre Seux and it sounds like Temo is doing pretty well as a new product in tough times, plus development work is ongoing.

  7. Larry says:

    Very cool technology!

    Love to see these advancements in battery-powered propulsion…looking like good news overall for the future of personal power.

    Hopefully, the price will continue to come down as we see more and more tech headed in this direction!

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