Mercedes-Benz hosted us in Miami a several weeks ago to get more acquainted with its latest cooperative adventure – a partnership with Cigarette Racing to build an all-electric racing boat. While we posted on the Cigarette AMG Electric Drive Concept after its worldwide introduction at the Miami Boat Show, its automotive-based technology is innovative enough to warrant a closer look.
Cigarette Racing has been building some of the world's finest high-performance boats – and racing them to victory – since the late 1960s. With more than four decades of experience under its decks, there might not be another boatmaker that offers a range combining this much military, yachting, aerospace and boat-building technologies. Cigarettes are hideously expensive, but they appeal to those seeking watercraft that are fast, uncompromising and exclusive. It goes without saying that they occupy rare waters – the highlighter-yellow boat seen above even more so than most.
Related Gallery2013 Cigarette AMG Electric Drive Concept
The Cigarette AMG Electric Drive Concept wasn't a complete surprise. As you may recall, Mercedes-Benz and Cigarette Racing have been in cahoots several times before. After announcing a partnership in late 2009, the team introduced an SL-inspired speed boat in 2010 and an impressive followup Black Series racer in 2012. A joint venture for 2013 was almost expected, but nobody predicted the all-electric result.
It takes tremendous thrust to move anything on the water at Autobahn speeds, let alone a 38-foot boat with an eight-foot beam that weighs more than 10,000 pounds. To overcome massive water and air resistance, both of the aforementioned project boats have featured powerful combustion engines (e.g., a pair of twin-turbocharged 552-cubic-inch Mercury Racing engines developing a combined 2,700 horsepower) allowing them to crack 125 mph. (To demonstrate such wrath and in the process completely change the way we look at power boats, Cigarette took us for a quick spin in a 50-foot Marauder and we effortlessly hit a blistering GPS-verified 106 mph on Miami's Biscayne Bay.)
Realizing that it would take immense power to achieve similar levels of performance in a pure-electric boat, the engineers at AMG turned to the powerplant in the SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive. With an electric motor at each wheel, the gullwing does 0-60 in 3.9 seconds – but the Cigarette needed more power. Much more.
The solution was found by using a dozen of the compact liquid-cooled permanent-magnet synchronous electric motors, each delivering 185 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The team mounted them in clusters of six to create two separate drive units, and provided each unit with its own transmission. Power is routed to a pair of razor-sharp six-blade polished stainless steel props in the rear of the boat (note the Plexiglas covers over the props in the pictures, fitted to prevent spectators from slicing off fingers).
In terms of energy storage, the Cigarette is fitted with four high-tech lithium-ion batteries with a total of 48 modules and 3,456 cells. Total capacity of the 400-volt system is 240 kilowatt hours with an electric output of 2,400 kilowatts (there is also a traditional 12-volt marine system to run lights, accessories and to provide startup power). Recharging takes as little as three hours with the standard 44-kilowatt on-board charger and four optional rapid on-board chargers, while standard charging takes about seven hours at the marina.
The drive units are mounted in the rear of the Cigarette boat under a hydraulically operated engine cover in similar location to the gasoline-fed V8 engines they replace. The heavy batteries are mounted at the bottom of the hull beneath the passenger compartment, to keep the center of gravity as low as possible. Besides exhibiting impeccable showroom-ready build quality, everything is water resistant – getting stuck in a Florida downpour with the engine cover open should never be a problem.
The Cigarette AMG Electric Drive Concept we visited has yet to float – the key word is "concept" – but its calculated performance means it should rival its combustion counterparts. The motors make a combined 2,200 horsepower and 2,213 pound-feet of torque. With zero turbo lag (electric torque is available immediately), acceleration should be spear gun quick with a top speed in excess of 100-plus mph.
But don't assume that an all-electric Cigarette will deliver an abbreviated and unfulfilling boating experience. The powerplant team say they've packed enough juice into the 38-footer's battery pack to provide more than enough thrills to keep even an old salt grinning –a typical outing includes 30 minutes of idle, 30 minutes of 60 mph cruise and five minutes of blast time at 100-plus mph with an additional safety margin thrown in there to alleviate range anxiety. Despite those massive "Electric Drive" letters painted on its side, this boat wasn't designed to be lifeless and bland.
Electric power in recreational boating is nothing new, but scrutinizing this project reveals that the engineers have raised the bar to pioneering levels. To construct a watercraft this potent – and still provide a usable operating window – is impressive. As of today, Cigarette Racing and AMG have built just one Electric Drive Concept, but they say they have the capacity to build more. If owning the world's most powerful and fastest electrically driven offshore powerboat is on your bucket list, and you happen to have the means to plunk down millions for the early bragging rights, then pack your SPF 30 and give them a call.