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Reimagined electric outboard propeller keeps plastic out of the ocean

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Torqeedo, a major innovator of all-electric boat motors, is working on a new version of its iconic bright-orange propeller, crafted from 100% recycled plastic. Not only will its future electric marine-drive products eliminate carbon emissions from the air around them, but they’ll also reduce the amount of plastics in the world’s oceans.

Plastic is difficult and expensive to recycle. Many of the plastic items we throw in a single bin need sorting, as different types of materials can’t be recycled together. Some plastics aren’t recyclable at all. And the work and energy required to reuse material for new products means that often new plastics are created instead. This, of course, further compounds the plastics problem.

A 2022 Greenpeace USA report found that a paltry 5% of the 51 million tons of plastic waste generated by US households in 2021 was recycled. That figure had reached its peak in 2014 at a still-unimpressive 9.5%, and both numbers might even be too high after considering that some plastic classified as “recycled” is actually shuttled off to foreign countries or domestic kilns and burned or dumped.

Torqeedo states that 14 million tons of plastic waste will find its way into the world’s waterways each year, much of it eventually flowing into the ocean. It’s become common to note that if the problem continues unabated, the oceans will contain a larger tonnage of plastic than fish by 2050.

While some operations have focused in on removing the plastic already in the water, Torqeedo hopes to help keep plastic from ending up there to begin with. It’s looking to develop an economy of scale through which recycled plastic could become a financially viable solution for product manufacturing.

Torqeedo's new Advanced Engineering Team explores the possibility of using recycled plastic in
Torqeedo’s new Advanced Engineering Team explores the possibility of using recycled plastic in propellers


The company has tasked its newly created Advanced Engineering Team with exploring alternative materials that would minimize its environmental footprint. Among the team’s first projects is applying recycled plastic to a new-generation of eco-friendly propeller, aimed for use in Torqeedo’s all-electric outboard, inboard and pod drive products.

“The typical way to integrate new materials is to start with a small percentage – maybe with just 10 or 20% recycled content,” explained Florian Deger, project leader within the Advanced Engineering Team. “However, we decided to aim higher. We made our prototype propellers from 100% recycled ocean plastics, and we’re thrilled to report that they surpassed all benchmarks in the first round of environmental and stress testing.”

More specifically, the team has been working with plastic pellets made from recycled PET and polypropylene, much of it sourced from bottles. Torqeedo says the recycled material reduces as much as 80% of the CO2 impact, and uses a process that creates a material “very close” in quality to brand-new plastic.

Torqeedo's latest prototype propellers are colored the usual orange
Torqeedo’s latest prototype propellers are colored the usual orange


Torqeedo is now pushing forward with its next prototype, colored in the company’s signature bright orange and designed much like current propellers. The company plans to get the recycled-plastic products to market within a year.

“We’re helping to develop a circular plastic economy and transforming used plastics from trash to treasure,” said Torqeedo CEO Fabian Bez. “Collecting used plastic for recycling only becomes economically viable when there is a market for the recycled material. Many manufacturers hesitate to use recycled materials based on outdated perceptions of inferior material quality. Torqeedo believes that a circular economy for plastics can be established today without negatively impacting product performance and durability.”

Last month, Torqeedo’s acquisition by Yamaha Motor was completed as part of the latter’s plans to reduce its own carbon footprint. Yamaha, too, has worked to incorporate recycled plastics into its products, including motorcycles and scooters.

Source: Torqeedo via PlugBoats

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