An electric boat with pedals? That’s one of the latest entries in the category “sustainable vessel propulsion.” Mermade, the German builder of the craft, calls it Seacycler and defines it as a pedelec pedal boat. To understand how it works, let’s briefly review the term pedelec, which often is misused. It is short for pedal electric and describes a bicycle that is primarily propelled by pedal power with electric assist up to approximately 15 mph. Key to a pedelec is that the rider must pedal to obtain the boost from the battery-powered motor. Such bikes have no accelerator, which simply means if you don’t pedal, you get no power. The same is true for the Seacycler.
The man behind the Seacycler (not to be confused with the U.K.-built fishing boat made from recycled single-use plastic) is Steffen Ehlert, whose company BEST GmbH has been a contractor for Bavaria Yachtbau in Giebelstadt, Germany. Asked about the origins of this project, Ehlert said, “The concept is not based on market data but rather on considerations of how you want to move on the water. Every electric boat has range issues, but with a pedal boat, that [limitation] is shifted to your legs, which are supported by battery power and make you feel like a 15-hp [11.25-kW] outboard.
The four-seater Seacycler measures 5m (16’5″) LOA and 1.65m (5’5″) beam, displacing anywhere between 500 kg (1,100 lbs) and 600 kg (1,320 lbs), depending on equipment, and needs a dollop of pedal power from the driver and/or co-pilot to get moving. And move it can. Provided sufficient enthusiasm by those doing the peddling, it can reach up to 12 knots (with the 11-kW propulsion system) or up to 20 knots with the larger 22-kW aggregate. That means the boat is, at least in theory, fast enough to tow a foiling board, as shown in the marketing literature. Taking it easy could still be good for 7 knots, plenty fast for a nice regenerative outing that burns calories as an added benefit.
Floren Marine Technik GmbH (FMT) manufactures the propulsion system, which consists of a hubless permanent-magnet synchronous motor to power a rim drive with inward-pointing prop blades. It “acts as a generator and produces electricity when it is being passively pulled through the water or water flows past it whilst being stationary,” says the company brochure. Other noteworthy features per FMT include compact size, versatility, low maintenance, and long service life; high-thrust, quiet, and almost vibration-free operation facilitated by two ceramic bearings for the precise alignment of the rotor within the stator; and water lubrication instead of conventional fats and oils.
A 150-Ah lithium-ion battery (48V system) stores enough energy for three to four hours of runtime, the brochure says, and can be charged either by shore power or from photovoltaic panels on a hard bimini. The controller offers three power levels (eco, cruise, and sport) managed via CAN bus, essentially as on a pedelec bike. Bonus feature: The 11-kW version does not need to be licensed in Germany, a big plus for folks who just want to relax on the water. The boat is built in a split female mold from fiberglass.
Ehlert gave credit to several technology partners, including the technical college in Aachen that led the R&D effort for the rim-drive pod; Greenfields, the firm responsible for the overall design; and Schaeffler AG, which contributed the pedal generator.
After initial sea trials of the prototype in 2021, some hull modifications were made for better maneuverability and planing performance; and a new dashboard and HMI (human-machine interface) with a 10.5cm (4″) touch-screen were installed (offering speed and rpm information, battery status, and return-to-port warning), along with new ergonomic seats and an “alligator” pushpit on the swim step.
So, who aside from fitness-obsessed individuals might want to buy a pedelec boat? Ehlert said he’s in talks with cruise ship companies and a luxury hotel chain that could envision the Seacycler as an “ideal, sustainable, and innovative” entertainment option for their guests. He also mentioned plans to sell the vessel in the U.S., pending Coast Guard approval, particularly in boating venues with speed limits, such as the Everglades in Florida.
Concrete sales numbers were not available, but the advertised base price was around €35,000 ($37,500).
BEST GmbH, Fasanenweg 8, 24646 Warder, Germany, tel. +49 9334 970767, firstname.lastname@example.org