Wokart: The 70 km/h go-kart for the water
The Wokart is a featherweight asymmetric catamaran with a centrally-located 70 hp outboard motor that's designed to have the driving characteristics and low power-to-weight of a go-kart.
The automotive seating and controls make it just like driving a car ... and in four years of development and testing, no-one has flipped one over. It promises all the fun of a PWC with a fraction of the environmental footprint and production is set to begin in January 2014 and at EUR20,000 (approximately US$27,400). Unlike most toys, a horsepower upgrade is as simple as bolting in a larger 85 hp motor, which makes it "unsuitable for the general public", a nice way of saying, "you can't handle this."
The Wokart is the latest of a plethora of new watercraft designs that have emerged in recent years that are well outside the realms of traditional naval architecture – from floating islands to floating cities through to a range of water toys such as the Flyboard, Jetovator, Jetlev, Samba, Seabreacher, Subwing, hydrofoil designs such as the Quadrofoil, Wfoil, and even towables such as the Manta Ray and KiteTube.
Indeed, Wokart designer Dr. Theo Christen delights in regaling tales of "boaties" across the world identifying him as a marine "outsider" based on the simple premise that if he were an insider, constrained by traditional marine design thinking, he couldn't have come up with the concept in the first place.
From the first time he showed his design to an established naval architect, to the crowd reaction when the Wokart was first displayed at the Stockholm Boat Show, Christen's Wokart has been greeted with astonishment and invariably, disbelief that an outsider could have conceived something like the Wokart.
The Wokart enters production at CMI in Thailand next month, completing a remarkable journey for Christen whose PhD is in Economics, not the academic discipline one might expect of the creator of such a promising new marine design.
Christen has offered Gizmag a drive in the Wokart which we'll be taking up as soon as possible, but here's what we know right now.
The Wokart is powered by a centrally-located 70 hp outboard motor, giving it similar performance and handling characteristics to a go-kart on the water. Top speed is beyond 40+ knots (75 km/h or 46 mph) and with an 85 hp motor it's beyond spectacular.
Each of the three Wokart partners I have spoken with have raved about the speed and agility of the aquatic go-kart, and its ability to instantly turn through 90 degrees at high speed.
Where Wokart might really hit the jackpot is that the design uses a modest 70 hp outboard of any manufacture (the EUR20,000 price does not include the outboard motor) this means it will be much more environmentally friendly than a PWC if you use a modern four-stroke power unit and potentially as quick if you use something like Torqeedo's Deep Blue electric outboard which is designed to replace a 75 hp traditional outboard.
Interestingly, in discussions with Wokart designer Dr. Theo Christen, I asked if a carbon fiber version had been considered, and whilst he acknowledged it had been, he said there would be a lot of testing involved because they had gone to a great deal of trouble to get the weight right, and lightening the Wokart might compromise its turning abilities. So the jury is out on the benefits of adding an electric outboard such as Deep Blue and its 55 pound battery pack.
Regardless, because it is technically an outboard watercraft, it can go places where jet-powered Personal Water Craft such as Kawasaki's Jet Ski and similar machinery from Sea-Doo, Yamaha and Honda cannot.
Finally, we all know that hitting waves at speed can be very jarring to the body, particularly if that shock is transmitted directly up the spine because you are sitting down. That was one of the few downsides of the Seabreacher we tested a few months ago.
I asked Christen about this and he said that between the drawings and the first prototype, he had expected to fit a sprung seat to avoid this spinal compression, but that there's something about the centrally located outboard that acts as a shock absorber and once the first prototype was in the water, they found that it didn't require the sprung seat.
So there you have it – yet another radical new marine design challenging years of convention.
Stay tuned for an upcoming evaluation.
Product page: Wokart