Paddling lakes, bays and rivers by kayak is a rewarding experience, but it can also be quite tiring. That's why Klepper offers paddlers the benefit of a solar-powered electric drive in its E-Kayak kit. The paddler can kick back and let the small motor take over the forward-floating load. The design adds a little modern-day technology and convenience to Klepper's classic folding kayak.
In 1905, a German architecture student named Alfred Heurich built a folding wooden-frame kayak he named Dolphin. While kayaking had been around for thousands of years prior to the Dolphin, Heurich is credited with launching kayaking as a sport. Two years later, Johann Klepper secured the patent from Heurich and went on to introduce the folding kayak to mass production and marketing. Klepper's eponymous brand has been selling folding kayaks ever since, playing a major role in popularizing the sport of kayaking along the way.
While it has a history like no other kayak manufacturer, Klepper doesn't rest solely on its reputation and past benchmark products, continuing to innovate and redefine the sport. At this year's Boot Düsseldorf boat show, we found evidence in both the modular Backyak backpack-kayak-catamaran-snow sled and the E-Kayak.
The E-Kayak is designed to let sore paddling muscle rest by replacing those muscles with motor power. The kit includes a high-efficiency electric motor with carbon propeller, an 18 Ah 12 V sealed lead acid battery and a cockpit-mounted digital control unit hardwired to the motor by a 7.5-foot (2.3-m) cable. The motor is integrated into the foot-operated rudder, which allows the kayaker to quickly and easily lower it in and lift it out of the water from inside the cockpit. The rudder also replaces the paddle in steering the boat while using the motor.
The E-Kayak is a nice idea, but as with any type of electric vehicle, a battery-powered motor only runs for so long. That's why Klepper also offers both rigid and folding solar panels that mount atop the deck and deliver enough battery power for up to an entire day on the water. An integrated controller prevents system overload, and the kit includes charging ports for keeping cell phones, GPS units, outdoor lights and other battery-powered gadgets topped off.
Klepper estimates that an E-Kayak can travel up to 32 miles (52 km) when operated in slow, battery-saving mode (2.5 mph/4 km/h) with eight hours of sunlight. Alternatively, it can travel at speeds up to 5 mph (8 km/h) in top speed mode, slicing total range down to about 9.3 miles (15 km).
Klepper offers a number of motor kits and options, starting with the €2,329 (US$2,600) motor kit with 18 Ah battery, minus any solar panels. The solar panels are listed separately at €590 for a 30 W rigid panel or $652 for a 25 W folding panel. Note that the range estimates above are based on a dual 30 W panel configuration.
The electric motor drive and solar panels are designed to be used with Klepper's Aerius folding kayaks. The manufacturer offers kayak models with ash/birch wood or carbon fiber folding frames covered by fabric skins. The kayaks fold up to be carried in portable cases. The boats accommodate one to four paddlers and range in price between €2,890 and 4,890.
So for a full E-Kayak set-up with single solar panel, you'd be looking at a starting price in the €5,800 (US$6,500) range, €6,400 for a rig with dual solar panels. That's not prohibitively expensive when compared to the collapsible, fuel-powered, jet-driven MOKAI ES-Kape, but well above non-collapsible electric-drive kayak options like the Old Town Predator XL or Kayacht. None of those other options include solar panels, however, and the latter two don't include batteries.