The world’s first tribrid – human-sail-electric watercraft range
By Mike Hanlon
February 18, 2010
The evolution of the sailcraft has been underway for thousands of years but March could well become the significant point at which sailpower begins to merge with other energy forms to create a suite of harnessed energies when the history books are written 1000 years from now … and the electric announcement continues Hobie’s design and innovation ethic which has a sixty year tradition of creating brand new markets globally, something it has done half a dozen times with a remarkably good batting average .
The key to the entire hybrid and tribrid kayak capabilitiy from Hobie is its new eVOLVE™ electric drive.
The Hobie eVOLVE™ rudder-mounted motor can be used by itself or it can be combined with the MirageDrive™ pedal system and, in the case of several of the kayaks and the Adventure Island and new Tandem Island, sail for extra propulsion and added range to power across a current-ripped bay or put some quick miles behind you to get across a lake or a long way up an inland waterway.
I’m not sure what is more amazing about the new capability – its weight, which comes in at a maximum of 8.16 kg (with heavier mounts) or the fact that it comes with two ingenious mounting options and can be added to the rudder, or slotted into the mirage drive well of any of the existing kayak range. That’s 8 kilos with everything included – the motor, throttle, cables and Lithium Manganese battery. And if you have a mirage drive capability and two motors, you can fit them both – one in the mirage well and one on the rudder.
And indeed, with the new Tandem version of the adventure island, with two seats and two mirage drives, that could include up to three drives.
Now the kit comes with a surprisingly generous range, of roughly eight hours at 2 mph though if you use it at full throttle for short periods, that will obviously rapidly decline.
The new eVOLVE™ is the perfect partner for the Mirage pedal drive and the wind-powered sail as all are completely silent, so the relaxing aspect of kayaking need not be destroyed - it might be a novelty on the road, but the silence of paddling or sailing will not be disturbed by sound.
Based on the Torqueedo Ultra light 402 motor, the Hobie eVOLVE™ battery case has a built-in GPS which means you will always know your real speed as it reads out on the display of the remote throttle. The throttle display also shows charge status, distance remaining, and power consumption in watts.
One of the first things I thought about with regards to the eVOLVE electric motor in an open kayak is how incompatible water and electricty seem to be – one leak, one short, and your free ride home has gone. Not so, as the entire kit is waterproof to IP68 standards, international standard for marine electronics, and self contained and the throttle can be mounted at any point you wish in relation to your seating position and there’s even a kit comes with it for through-the-hull wiring so you can have a clean deck with minimal exposed wire.
The US$1899 eVOLVE™ kit means that Hobie’s entire range of MirageDrive™ pedal kayaks can become hybrid human-power and electric kayaks, and the Adventure Island and new tandem Island can become legitimate tribrids.
Hobie’s MirageDrive™ offers a remarkably compatible synergy with both the electric drive and in the case of the Adventure Island range, sail too, and it is a masterpiece of design in enabling human power to be brought to kayaking in a non-traditional way.
If you're a technophile and haven’t seen Hobie’s MirageDrive™ pedal-propelled kayak and Pro Angler fishing boats, you’re in for a treat. The MirageDrive™ offers a highly efficient way to propel a small kayak for long distances. The Mirage drive is pedaled like a bicycle, and the slot-in drive produces motion in two penguin-fin-like flippers underneath.
Hobie borrowed the fin ideas from nature after noting that university studies show the oscillating fins of tuna and penguins are more efficient than propellers because they can make use of vortices that are naturally shed from anything going through the water to offset the vortices that would normally be generated by fins. This means less turbulence in the water and as in aerodynamics, where it’s just as important to leave the air smoothly as to cut through it smoothly, the MirageDrive™ completely validates itself in the almost identical field of fluid dynamics.
Just the same, I still look on it in wonder – the physics of the device are certainly difficult for the eye to behold, and it’s an understatement to say they belie its efficiency.
If you go to the HobieCat site, you’ll see that there’s a comparison test – a tug of war between the designer of the MirageDrive™, Greg Ketterman and an olympic kayak paddling champion using the traditional double ended paddle. The mirage wins easily. There’s also a two person kayak versus the mirage with Greg peddling and the two person narrowly shades it – bearing in mind that the two paddlers were arguably two of the strongest paddlers in the world in their day, we’ll give that one to the mirage too.
Now the mirage drive doesn’t look as powerful as it is but when you’ve tried it, you realize it’s much more efficient than normal kayak paddling with your arms. For any given amount of energy, the MirageDrive™ gets you further. Indeed, it’s still almost as efficient as running.
Here’s the maths. The current half marathon record is 58:33 set by Kenya’s Samuel Wanjiru in 2007. Adjust that same speed to cover an hour and you get 21.6 km or 13.4 mph. A kayak with a MirageDrive™ with turbo fins and an athlete peddling would cover better than eight to nine miles in an hour – significantly better than half and maybe two thirds of the speed of an equivalently fit person. At far gentler inputs, the mirage would probably be more efficient comparatively as it can glide long distances with almost no input, as the MirageDrive™ fins "feather" into the flow when not pedaling and create very little drag; by comparison, a propeller creates significant drag when it is not spinning.
The motion of the pedals provides a long, smooth stroke and the back-and-forth movement allows the pedals to be positioned much lower in the cockpit than a circular peddling motion. Whatsmore, the MirageDrive™ can be adjusted to allow any length of stroke desired and can easily accommodate different size pedalers.
Now I have actually owned an Adventure Island with a pedal MirageDrive™ for the last two and a half years and I can vouch it does all the things asked of it, gets continually abused on rocks and in shallow water, and will happily do so for ridiculously long periods. It is far more reliable than a bicycle chain in far more hostile conditions and fins fold up next to the hull for beaching and in shallow water by simply putting one foot forward. It seems impervious to neglect and punishment, has never once fouled on anything and it’s as efficient a drive system as you can get in the water.
With the two drives available in the tandem kayaks and now the tandem island, there’s suddenly a lot more horsepower available. Two fit peddlers should give the Tandem Island a speed of more than 10 mph.
As mentioned, I’ve lived with an Adventure Island for 30 months now using it daily when I’m home – it’s basically a Hobie kayak with a mirage “pedal drive” and 57.5 sq. ft. (5.34 sq. m) of sail on a 15' 2" (4.62 m) carbon fibre mast with retractable amas on each side – it has been embraced worldwide as the Swiss Army Knife of adventure transport.
It is capable of hitting 10 mph under sail, will do a comfortable 5 mph pedaling alone and offers a unique hybrid human (HPV) power plus sail capability, where Hybrid HPV sailing is enhanced by your ability to give it a burst of speed to catch a swell or get the bow across the wind. You’ve got 5mph of leg power sitting below the sail and now the tandem island is avsailable, the prospect of two fit peddlers is incredibly enticing. Human power and sail power fit so incredibly well together that its’ almost a different form of sailing – an incredibly rewarding one at that.
Now with the larger more stable boat underneath, the Tandem can carry a lot more sail. Mast height has been increased to 18' (5.49 m) and sail area increases to 90 sq. ft. (8.4 m2) compared with 57.5 sq. ft. of the single seater, giving it 56% more sailing power.
A human walking can carry a large amount of gear – maybe 40 kilograms at a pinch. But you won’t set any running records with that much weight on your back, and an 80 kg pilot in the Adventure Island can comfortably carry as much again if the Island is packed with balance in mind.
The much larger Tandem with two 80 kg occupants can carry another 112 kilograms of weigh if it’s distributed properly – more than enough for a tent, cooking gear, and sleeping in luxury. And you won’t be much down on speed.
With two complete drives aboard, you’ll sacrifice 16 kg of that carrying capacity but gain an extra 16 hours of 2mph cruising speed – 32 miles of additional range. Combined with a second peddler, and/or an electric drive with 18 foot of sail power, the Tandem Island is a very efficient, fast touring boat with almost no carbon footprint. The electric drive is the least environmentally sound power source on the menu, and you'll be taking your hydrocarbon emissions home with you - nothing noxious will be dumped directly in the waterway.
By intelligently combining the power of 18 ft of sail with human power and now adding enough electric power to take you 16 miles in eight hours, regardless of wind, rips or currents, the Tandem Island with electric is a landmark watercraft, as is the Adventure Island which gets the same tribrid capabilities.
The eVOLVE™ doesn’t just add tribrid power to the island range though, and that’s what makes it such a big announcement – it adds hybdrid power to the entire Hobie Mirage kayak range, meaning that the inflatable range now has an electric option, as does the fishing range, the single and double mirage sit-on kayaks.
The accessories for this Roll-Royce Adventure complete it even more – getting continually hit by spray occasionally happens in a sit-on kayak and it can be deeply unpleasant, so they have created a clip-on spray guard which does the trick nicely.
In announcing the new drive, Hobie’s CEO noted that Hobie intends to “stay ahead of the curve and work with partners like Torqeedo to devise products that enhance kayaking, fishing, and sailing experiences of our customers.”
“The introduction of the Hobie eVolve is our latest such product to bring to market… and there is still a very long list on the drawing board.”