Autonomous FC boat for the Schlei

ZeroOne prototyp in harbour, © Gateway49
© Gateway49

In the old brick shed of a former schnapps factory, the inventor couple Stefanie and Lars Holger Engelhard have designed their tugboat and built a prototype. On 7 August 2021, the christening of this prototype of an electrically driven catamaran took place in the presence of Dr. Bernd Buchholz, the Minister of Economic Affairs of Schleswig-Holstein. Starting in spring 2023, the ZeroOne could chauffeur excursionists from Schleswig’s city harbour across the Schlei River to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Viking Museum in Haithabu, or so the plan goes. Another two years later, the hybrid boat designed for up to twelve people could then be travelling autonomously, i.e. without a driver.

The ZeroOne is powered by two 6 kW electric motors. Two battery packs with 13.5 kWh each are on board as power storage, along with a fuel cell that is used as a range extender. Minister Buchholz stated on the occasion of the christening: “For Schleswig-Holstein as a technology location, the development of emission-free ship propulsion systems – coupled with concepts for autonomous mobility – is increasingly becoming a trademark that makes us known far beyond the state’s borders.”

In June 2021, the start-up Unleash Future Boats presented the twelve-metre-long concept boat during the Greentech Festival in Berlin together with technology partner Würth Elektronik. The two men in their late thirties, who come from Bavaria and were previously employed in automotive companies, receive further support from both the state of Schleswig-Holstein and the federal government, as well as from the Port of Duisburg.

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Lars Engelhard, Managing Director of Unleash Future Boats GmbH, explained “We are planning a technology transfer from automotive to maritime mobility and thus want to change shipping to become sustainable. […] Due to the low water levels, the logistics industry will have to rely more on small boats in the future, and these can be operated in an economically sensible way, especially through autonomous systems. Our tugboats are also an attractive concept for cities that want to make inner-city transport more sustainable.” According to him, several regions and metropolises from home and abroad have already expressed interest in the tugboats.


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