American electric outboard manufacturer Vision Marine Technologies has set a new ‘electric’ speed record on the water, breaking the 100 per hour barrier at 109 mph (175,4 km/h) with a 32-foot (9,7 m) catamaran equipped with two E-Motion 180E outboards. The world’s most powerful electric outboards currently.
At the wheel of the purpose-built one-off speed boat, Shaun Torrente, two-time F1 H2O world champion in single-seater inshore circuit powerboat racing, the ‘water’ equivalent of F1 car racing. Quite a difference, this zero-emission, silent, electric 180 hp outboard, compared to the howling, smelly, and CO2 spewing V6 two-stroke Mercury he is used to.
109 mph record
The record was set at the Lake of The Ozarks Shootout, a boat racing charity event at the reservoir created by damming up the Osage River in the northern part of central Missouri. Torrente crossed the finish line of the three-quarter-mile course with a radar-gun-clocked 109 mph (175 km/h) top speed.
The boat was a 32-foot catamaran adapted by Hellkat Powerboats to fit Vision Marine’s E-Motion electric outboards, and the battery usually a 70 kWh lithium-ion battery per engine.
On an average recreation boat, typically between 18 to 26′, this battery gives a range of 70 miles (112 km) at a cruising speed of 20 mph (32 km/h) or 3,5 hours of boating. It is noiseless, odorless, and smokeless, and Vision Marine claims a 90% cost reduction in fuel and maintenance. And it won’t get airborne going too fast like F1H2O boats.
There was a lot of preparation needed before setting this record, though. “We worked hard on optimizing the electric motors, the 700V batteries, the cooling circuitry, and the hardware and software integration, all of which are quintessential to our success as a leader in the electric marine propulsion industry,” said Xavier Montagne, Vision Marine’s CTO and COO.
120 liters of aviation fuel per hour
The outboard powering the F1H2O boats Torrente and his colleagues are racing is the Mercury Marine V6 two-stroke that burns 100LL Avgas (blue aviation gasoline with a high octane number) at a rate of 120 liters per hour.
You can imagine the kind of outboard developed in the seventies, and further fine-tuned during four decades isn’t the most environment-friendly. Mercury decided to abandon recreational two-stroke engines in Europe to be replaced by four-stroke due to emission regulations and the negative perception among customers of being smelly, smoky, and polluting engines.
This racing engine still in use generates 425 horsepower at 10 500 rpm and can drive the tunnel hull F1 catamarans in less than 4 seconds to 100 km/h and to a top speed of up to 240 km/h. The tunnel hull design creates an air cushion under the hull so that at speed, only a few centimeters touch the water, making these top speeds possible.
But these monocoque racing boats, made of carbon fiber and kevlar, weigh only 360 kg, risking getting airborne on a wavetop with sometimes catastrophic consequences.