In a nutshell, the answer to the above question is now “yes”. A company called Lehr has started producing propane outboards, and these things seem to be catching on.Yes, that’s a propane bottle sticking out the back of the outboard – this is the 5-hp model.
The advantages of using propane are pretty significant: instead of filling a fuel tank at the gas station, you can simply toss a few propane canisters into the boat. These screw onto the outboard just like they do on a camping stove, or propane heater. And if that’s not enough fuel (one bottle gets you several hours of use, depending on how fast you’re running and which model you have) you can also hook up a grill-sized tank. It’s safer than gasoline, and it doesn’t have any harmful emissions. And since Lehr has been building small propane motors for years (weed-wackers, lawn mowers, and more), they have these engines pretty well figured out – and offer a three-year warranty.
2.5, 5.0, and 9.9 horsepower models are all now available. Okay, so that won’t exactly rocket you across the bay on your 22-footer. But for a small aluminum boat, these things coule make life a lot easier, and a lot safer. What about weight? The smallest version is just 37.9 pounds, and the largest, 87.7 pounds. Heck, you can even get electric start on the 9.9.
Down-sides? Finding a mechanic who’s familiar with these engines may be a bit challenging, in the near-term. And the 2.5-hp model doesn’t have reverse, it’s forward and neutral, only. How about cost? The smallest model starts right around a thousand bucks, and the largest is about $2,600.
These obviously won’t be perfect for everyone, but for some of us they’ll be an excellent option – nifty!