Our debut electric outboard motor scooped a Red Dot Design Award

In: stories

Jun 16, 2022

When we started developing the Propel S1 electric outboard motor early 2021 we knew that design would play an important role in the success of our young brand. After all, most boat owners spent a fair amount of time to spec their boat and choose the right materials and colours.

Red Dot Design Award Propel winner

When conducting research and trying to understand the market and future customers, we also realized that design goes beyond aesthetics and that we could also add value by taking a different approach to interfaces. Our goal was not to provide all the information that can be harvested from the batteries and motor controller, but just a mere subset, and present it in such a way that it is easy for consumers to digest and understand.

Winning the Red Dot Design Award is an important moment for all of us at Propel. We’re still a young company – the new kids on the dock – so we are proud to be recognized for a design-led approach that creates a better user experience that adds value for our customers. 

In the short time since Propel’s formation late last year, we have nearly completed the development of the S1, the first of a range of clean and sustainable propulsion solutions for the leisure marine sector. Our outboard motor is in the validation trial phase and customer and industry interest is growing. The goal of our propulsion solutions is to help bring about sustainable and zero-emission mobility across the industry.

We have designed the S1 in partnership with Ko:work, an Eindhoven-based specialist industrial design agency, and DentsuAchtung!, a creative digital agency in Amsterdam.

The design follows classic Dutch aesthetics: it exhibits a simple, quirky style, with clean, uncluttered lines. The partners were involved from the earliest stages of the product development cycle so that design was integral throughout. 

Our goal was to go to market in an ambitious time frame. Integrating Saietta's Electric Drive Solutions gave us the ability to engineer at a faster pace. Moreover, by bringing the team of electrical-, mechanical- and manufacturing engineers and the designers, together, we optimized the design for manufacturing from day one, allowing us to further speed up the engineering process.

The S1 is deliberately devoid of brash logos, names and power labels. The unit’s unique round casing, high above the waterline, follows the form of the Saietta Axial Flux Technology (AFT) ‘pancake’ motor inside. Discreet ‘Propel’ branding is embossed into the white casing.

At launch, customers can choose to their own styling accent with a choice of a Satin Silver, Sage Green or Nordic White finish to the shaft.

We focused extensively on the S1’s user experience.

The motor is started with a simple flick of a switch. The colour display on the optional tiller gives owners all the information users need to safely enjoy their time on the water. The display’s clear and simple animated graphics makes using the S1 easy even for those with minimal boating experience, and a great choice for rental fleet operators. With a closed-loop cooling system, the S1 requires minimal maintenance.

The designers and engineers were tasked with creating a 'simple and robust' electric outboard motor. Simplicity makes the motor accessible to a wide audience, optimized for low maintenance, and the design language suits a wide variety of vessels. Robustness translates into critical components that sit above the waterline and parts that can be easily replaced.

After all, designing for repairability is the key to creating a truly sustainable product.

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