Just as automobiles have steadily moved toward electric power in the face of uncertain future oil costs, boats have begun a similar shift. Opa-Locka, Fla.-based Cigarette Racing Team LLC has put itself in the forefront of marine innovation with “the world’s most powerful electric performance boat.”
Partnering with Mercedes-AMG, Cigarette has produced an electric cigarette boat based on the high-performance Cigarette 38’ Top Gun hull. The two companies have created an electric power plant that can push the boat to in excess of 120 miles per hour.
The technology utilized in this innovative craft was borrowed from the emissions-free sports car, the SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive. Originally designed by AMG for the Formula 1 world, the engineers at AMG along with the innovators at Cigarette foresaw the potential in an industry-leading move to high performance electric power for boats. They took the electric motors, the high voltage batteries and the power train electronic controllers and multiplied them for use in the 38-foot hull. The basic principle of high torque electric power proved effective in the new powerboat.
The power plants of these new vessels are made up of two independent power trains, each to power its own high-performance out drive. Borrowing the synchronous permanent-magnet electric motors from the coupe, the Cigarette uses a total of six of these motors (three per side). Each motor individually can provide 138kw of power and 250Nm of torque. Combined they can produce a whopping 1,656kw that translates to an impressive 2,220hp.
The three motors per side are mounted in a triangular and symmetrical pattern on top of the gearbox of each drive. There are separate inverters for each motor that provide three-phase alternating current for the motors from the six high voltage custom lithium battery banks wired in parallel. An AMG-Powertrain Controller controls power to each of the inverters with a mirrored system for port and starboard power plants. Power is distributed to the controller and motors through a power distribution unit that produces an even load and discharge.
The batteries are cutting-edge, high voltage lithium-ion power plants that originally hailed from AMG’s Formula 1 hybrid technology. AMG wanted maximum efficiency from a lightweight high performance battery. It came up with a battery that could produce an unprecedented 60kWh. When multiplied in the Cigarette, they produced an all-time high performer at 2,400kw with a weight of 4,833lbs – a power to weight ratio that had not been possible until AMG’s development. The batteries are water-cooled using closed circuits, heat exchangers and filtered raw water. A similar cooling system cools the electric motors and power electronics, maintaining an even operating temperature.
From the outside, this impressive vessel seems to be the same as her sister ships, but a close look at the engine gauge cluster gives her away. Instead of traditional gauges such as tachometers, there are power displays showing “power requirements, recuperation status, transmission modes and battery charge.”
Charging is provided by two onboard charging systems. If charging from a typical 220v 50 amp dockside power supply using 22kw though two charging receptacles, one can charge the vessel in less than 10 hours, with realistic times of about 7-8 hours possible. If the charging system is upgraded to an 88kw system at 400 volts, charging times can be brought down to less then 2 hours. Running times of the vessel depend on speed, marine conditions and other variables.
Mercedes-AMG and Cigarette have taken leading edge technology from the Formula 1 world and placed it squarely in the high performance marine market. Their innovation has opened the door to never before seen performance utilizing electric power. It is exciting to think where this will take them.