Propane-powered outboard maker Lehr has introduced what I think is the first outboard motor with self-contained electric starting. An optional feature of its new propane-powered, LP9.9 model, the motor carries its starting battery under the cowl, rather than in the boat. We first announced this motor last October, and I got a look at it for the first time at the 2013 Miami International Boat Show.

The new 9.9-horsepower motor joins the propane-powered LP2.5 and LP5.0 models Lehr introduced in 2012. This new 9.9 takes Lehr into a much larger market segment. Made in China to Lehr specs from components sourced around the world, the twin-cylinder, 212-cc motor features F-N-R shifting and weighs 87.7 pounds. For comparison, a Mercury 9.9 FourStroke weighs 83 pounds. Unlike the smaller Lehr models, the new 9.9 is not set up to be powered by a one-pound “camp stove” fuel canister mounted on the motor, as it will use that much fuel too quickly to be practical. Instead, the Lehr 9.9 is fueled from a 10- to 20-pound tank placed in the boat. Retail pricing starts at $2,599 for a 15-inch model with manual starting and a tiller. That does not include a fuel tank. You can use a steel grill tank, but Lehr offers a lightweight composite tank ($150.00 through West Marine) that seems ideal for marine use. The motor will be offered with a 20-inch shaft, remote controls, and electric start options.

Lehr LP9.9 features F-N-R shifting

The new propane-powered Lehr LP9.9 features F-N-R shifting and can be rigged with remote controls. The composite fuel tank (sold separately) has a clear panel so the fuel level can be checked by eye. Photo courtesy of Lehr.

The battery used for electric starting is a 12-volt lithium iron (LiFePO4) type made by Shorai . This type of battery has become very popular for motorcycle and other powersports applications where light weight and safety are a priority. It is much more stable than, and should not be confused with, the lithium-ion batteries that have been in the news recently, catching on fire in jumbo jets, for example. It contains no liquid and can be mounted in any position.

Lehr LP9.9 outboard motor

A lithium iron starting battery fits neatly the cowl of the new Lehr LP9.9 outboard motor.

Shorai has a great FAQ section on its site if you want to learn more. It specifically answered the question I had regarding battery performance in cold weather, for example. The motor has a 6-amp alternator and can be rigged to also charge a battery on the boat for lights or a few accessories. With the battery located on the engine, it will be much easier to take the LP9.9 from boat to boat and enjoy the benefits of electric starting. Only the motor and propane tank will need to be moved.

Our staff reports that a few of the smaller Lehr motors have been spotted being used as  auxiliary sailboat power in the Northeast. They are especially appealing to boatowners who already have propane on board for cooking fuel. Derived mostly from natural gas, propane is currently cheaper than gasoline in some markets when purchased in bulk. Propane is clean-burning, non-toxic, produces no evaporative emissions, and will not damage marine life. It’s also much cleaner and perhaps safer to have on board than gasoline for auxiliary power.

For more information visit Lehr.