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Torqeedo Ultralight revolutionises kayaking
  |  First Published: December 2016



Earlier in the year, Fishing Monthly Magazines attended the launch of three of Torqeedo’s electric outboard motors by their Australian distributer, Power Equipment. German manufactured Torqeedo is recognised as a leader in the field of electric motor technology. In particular for their attention to detail when comes to minimizing battery use, while maximizing output. At the time we were impressed by what we saw and looked forward to getting our hands on them to put them through their paces.

After catching up with Jason Hodder from Power Equipment and Paul Varasdi from Aquayak Kayak at this year’s Melbourne Boat Show, I organised with them to ship an Aquayak Scout kayak with a Torqeedo Ultralight 403 1hp fitted to be sent to our office. Once it arrived, we quickly organised to go to Hinze Dam in the hinterland of the Gold Coast to see if it would meet our expectations.

Torqeedo Ultralight 403 in a nutshell

This outboard is designed to be mounted on a kayak. A universal mounting ball means that it can be attached to most brands of kayaks and the partnerships Torqeedo has with numerous well-known kayak brands overseas is a testament to this.

Aquayak, a Melbourne-based kayak manufacturer, is their Australian partner. They offer two models, which are ideally suited to having the Ultralight 403 fitted to them, which are the Scout and Ranger kayaks.

Weighing in at just 7.3kg including the battery, the Ultralight, as the name suggests, doesn’t add a significant amount of weight to your kayak. In the case of the Scout kayak we tested it with, the total weight still falls well under 30kg, meaning it can still be man handled by one person.

Included when you purchase a 403 is the outboard, high performance 320Wh lithium battery with integrated computer and GPS, throttle with display, mounting ball, charger, magnetic kill switch and a bag for it to go in. The cost is $2750. Spare batteries can also be purchased, or you could option of the solar charger, which allows you to charge the battery while you are using the kayak.

Battery life

The million-dollar question when it comes to any electric motor is how long will the battery last? Jason Hodder provided me with some pretty impressive figures from when the 403 was attached to a similar sized kayak to the Scout.

At slow speed (approximately 4km/h) you can get a range of 35km or a battery life of just under 8.5 hours. Half throttle (approximately 6km/h) has a range of 25km or just over 4 hours of use. Full throttle (approximately 9km/h) provides a range of 7km and just under 1 hour of use.

During our test at Hinze we were on the water for 4 hours. About 10% of this time would have been at full throttle and the rest was as you would use it in a normal fishing situation, and the unit only used 18% of the battery. That says to me that you could expect to get a couple of days on the water from the battery, as long as you don’t go full noise too often.

To fully charge the battery from empty takes around 5 hours. The beauty of lithium batteries, other than how light they are, is the fact that they have no charging memory. This means you can charge them after every use and not worry about diminishing the capacity of the battery.

On the water

Hinze Dam was the perfect location to test the 403. It is a picturesque waterway in the hinterland behind the Gold Coast that has very good bass fishing and watercraft can only be electric or paddle powered.

As a ‘crawl before you walk’ type person, I had some reservations prior to launching in the eastern arm of the dam. The biggest being, how many times was I going to end up in the drink while I was getting used having the Ultralight powering the kayak?

I needn’t have worried, once I deployed the 403, using a toggle system on the side of the kayak it only took me 5-10 minutes to get a feel for the pulley steering, the throttle, and then you couldn’t stop me after that.

In many cases power was your friend. Turning from a stationary position was much easier when you applied a bit more throttle. This turned the nose of the kayak quickly and set you on your way. The steering is simple and I was very quickly negotiating my way around the abundant timber of the east arm of the dam. The motor also has reverse, which was great to position yourself when casting and also to get away from structure when you hooked a fish.

I can hear everybody asking about what it performed like at full throttle. The answer is really well. It got up to a fraction under 11km/h (5.8 knots) and still handled and steered beautifully! At the end of our session on the water, I decided it was time to be a bit more daring and test out what would happen if I lent back or sideways at speed (expecting to end up in the water). Impressively, the kayak either banked left or right , dependending on which way I leant, and was easily corrected once your weight was centred again. No swimming in Hinze Dam for this puppy!

Should you have a spill, the magnetic kill switch that you attached to your lifejacket or arm will automatically turn the motor off.

Conclusion

I can think of numerous occasions I would have loved to have an option like the Torqeedo Ultralight 403 for my kayak over the years. The first that comes to mind is Googong Dam just outside my hometown of Canberra. We were very limited with our electric motor options when I was fishing there, and the 403 would have been the ultimate bonus to get us to some amazing fishing, even all the way back then.

Extended trips on rivers is another scenario where the Ultralight would provide the icing on the cake so to speak. You have all the stealth a kayak provides, with the bonus of paddling less and returning to areas, knowing that time constraints are less of an issue.

However, I digress. There are many positives the Torqeedo Ultralight 403 provides. The first and foremost outside of the places it can take you is how light the unit and battery is. Matched with the Aquayak Scout, it is a one-person fishing machine. The simplicity of the steering and the deployment of the unit suited the simple person using it and makes using it achievable for any person. It should be noted that there is also the option to have it attached to your existing steering system).

I think I would add a solar charger as an option if I were to purchase a unit. I love the thought of the battery charging while I am out on the water. You also couldn’t help but be impressed by how frugal the motor was with its battery use. This just backed up the claim that Torqeedo is at the forefront of electric motor technology.

If you are a kayak owner or somebody who would like an electric motor option, you don’t need to look any further than the Torqeedo Ultralight 403.

To find out more about the Ultralight 403 and the range of Torqeedo motors you can visit the Power Equipment website www.powerequipment.com.au/products/torqeedo or through Aquayak kayaks at www.aquayak.com.

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