All-in-all the Sealegs E4 is an im­pres­sive piece of en­gi­neer­ing that’s both in­no­va­tive and evo­lu­tion­ary

Boating NZ - - Feature -

SAME BUT DIF­FER­ENT

If you’re al­ready fa­mil­iar with a Sealegs am­phib­ian, op­er­at­ing the Elec­tric E4 will pose few prob­lems. Even if you are not, it’s sim­ple to drive – sim­pler than a con­ven­tional Sealegs, be­cause there are fewer knobs and levers to worry about. The new dig­i­tal in­ter­face is su­perb, and in­tu­itive as well – it not only looks the busi­ness, it is the busi­ness.

Un­der elec­tric power the E4 is very quiet – there’s no petrol en­gine roar­ing away in the cock­pit or helm con­sole. Drive time on land is around 1.5 hours on a full charge, de­pend­ing on speed, pay­load and ter­rain. That’s typ­i­cally 20 re­turn trips for most Sealegs users, in­creased fur­ther by re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing and the out­board charg­ing the lithium bat­tery. All the usual safety fea­tures are in­cluded, such as emer­gency brak­ing.

Con­sid­er­able de­vel­op­ment went into the elec­tric wheel hub mo­tors which fea­ture the lat­est brush­less tech­nol­ogy, es­pe­cially their seals. Sealegs has 17 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence with marin­i­sa­tion tech­niques, so it’s con­fi­dent the Amptracs sys­tem is bul­let­proof.

The E4 is two-wheel-drive but pro­duc­tion mod­els will roll out with ei­ther two-wheel or all-wheel-drive, which has ad­van­tages when tack­ling dif­fi­cult ter­rain and soft mud or sand. Driv­ing the E4 across the beach and into the wa­ter at Cas­tor Bay was trou­ble-free, with good trac­tion all the way, but if one wheel loses trac­tion, soft­ware-con­trolled au­to­matic torque vec­tor­ing will lock the wheels to main­tain over­all grip.

On land, speed in for­ward or re­verse is con­trolled by an elec­tronic joy­stick on the dash while the fancy Ital­ian steer­ing wheel turns the front wheel and the out­board at the same time – no need for sep­a­rate steer­ing sys­tems for ter­res­trial and ma­rine op­er­a­tion.

GLASS BRIDGE

Func­tions such as rais­ing and low­er­ing the wheels and much else be­sides are con­trolled and mon­i­tored from the 24-inch Sim­rad dis­play, or you can use au­to­mo­tive style push­but­tons on the steer­ing wheel, which also con­trol the Fu­sion Apollo multi-speaker stereo sys­tem. The Apollo mounts flush in the dash, ac­cen­tu­at­ing the glass bridge theme.

Sim­rad’s largest MFD of­fers all the usual func­tion­al­ity, in­clud­ing fishfinder and chart­plot­ting, but Sealegs has de­vel­oped its own soft­ware for the Amptracs sys­tem with an at­trac­tive in­ter­face that’s very easy to use. Soft­ware up­grades will come reg­u­larly.

The stylish cen­tre- con­sole houses not only the elec­tron­ics, but also the 48- volt, 7kwh lithium bat­tery and the ves­sel’s PLC. The bat­tery takes four to five hours to fully recharge us­ing in­te­grated mains charg­ing – sim­ply plug it in to a 240- volt mains sup­ply. The out­board also feeds charge to the bat­tery via the VSR and a Powr­flow step-up charger, as does the re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing sys­tem. So­lar charg­ing is an­other op­tion.

Petrol for the V6 Ev­in­rude E-tec 200hp out­board is stored in a 180-litre tank un­der the floor.

SNAPPY PER­FOR­MANCE

As with other Sealegs-built boats, the hull is alu­minium, engi­neered for ter­res­trial op­er­a­tion as well as ma­rine. That means plenty of struc­ture un­der the floor to stiffen the hull lat­er­ally and lon­gi­tu­di­nally, plus ex­tra strength­en­ing at the cor­ners where the leg and wheel as­sem­blies at­tach. “It’s not just a hull, it’s a chas­sis,” said Peter. This hull is based on Sealegs’ pop­u­lar 7.1m. On the wa­ter the 5mm thick deep­vee hull per­forms as you would ex­pect, smooth­ing out the bumps to de­liver a dry, com­fort­able ride.

Be­cause of all the ad­di­tional tech­nol­ogy re­quired for driv­ing on land – wheels and hub mo­tors, hy­draulic legs, pumps, bat­tery pack and ex­tra hull strength­en­ing – the E4 is rel­a­tively heavy at 1390kg dry, but very sim­i­lar in weight to a con­ven­tional all-petrol 7.1m Sealegs. None­the­less, per­for­mance with the 200hp E-tec is pretty snappy. Top speed is well over 40 knots – with a 150hp out­board, rec­om­mended power for this model, you could ex­pect a top speed around 40 knots.

SEALEGS FOR THE FU­TURE

All-in-all the Sealegs E4 is an im­pres­sive piece of en­gi­neer­ing that’s both in­no­va­tive and evo­lu­tion­ary. Tak­ing full ad­van­tage of ad­vances in elec­tric mo­tor de­sign and lithium bat­tery tech­nol­ogy, and draw­ing on years of am­phibi­ous boat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, the Sealegs Elec­tric E4 is recog­nis­ably an evo­lu­tion­ary de­sign, but with its many in­no­va­tive fea­tures, it feels very much like the Sealegs for the fu­ture. BNZ

The E4 looks smart on and off the wa­ter. An E-tec 200hp en­sures sharp per­for­mance, but the E4 will achieve 40 knots with a stan­dard 150hp out­board.

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