In May 2012, I had the opportunity to see one of the new Lehr propane-powered outboard in action at the Brewer Pilots Point Marina Spring Picnic and Vendor Show in Westbrook, Connecticut. The outboard was invented by Capt. Bernardo Lehr, the guru of propane-powered devices ranging from leaf blowers to scooters.
Lehr currently has 2 models of the outboard available: a 2.5-hp and 5-hp. Both are based on 4-stroke powerheads and run on either small propane canisters or a larger remote tank. The tanks can be filled at any propane filling station, and are as easy to connect as the ones on your barbecue grill.
The advantages of propane over gas include:
- higher octane rating
- fewer harmful emissions (less ozone damage)
- no detergents or oil to clog injectors or foul spark plugs
- safer (flash point of 940˚ F)
- won’t contaminate water or soil
- reduces dependence on foreign oil
- won’t degrade over time
- no ethanol issues
- less maintenance
At the Pilots Point event, local Lehr rep Kurt Forsman demonstrated the 2.5-hp model, which he had mounted on an inflatable dinghy. The outboard, which weighs 37 pounds, started right up on the first pull. Since the propane is already pressurized and vaporized inside the canister, there’s no need to prime or choke the engine. As we puttered around the Pilots Point docks, I found the engine’s performance and noise level to be similar to a 2-stroke engine. The 2.5 has no reverse gearing, so the engine must be spun around in order to back up. The larger (50 pounds) 5-hp model does have reverse.
Fuel consumption is similar to an equivalent gas-powered outboard.
A recent test by Boating magazine found that the 5-hp Lehr could push a 12’ aluminum boat 4.5 mph at 3300 rpm while delivering 24.3 mpg. At 4600 rpm, speed was 6.2 mph at 3.1 mpg.