Princeton University student team sets new electric boat speed record

For anyone who thinks that all electric boats are essentially just aquatic golf carts, well … think again. A Princeton University student team recently broke a world speed record for electric-powered boats, with an average speed of 114.2 mph (183.8 km/h).

The record-breaking runs took place on Oct. 26th at the American Power Boat Association (APBA)’s sanctioned course on Lake Townsend near Greensboro, North Carolina. It was a “flying kilometer”-type event, in which the boat was allowed to build up speed before entering a 1-km (0.6-mile)-long stretch of water where its top speed was recorded.

As is customary for such record attempts, the boat made two 1-km runs back-to-back, the top recorded speeds of which were averaged for a final figure. The pilot, professional hydroplane driver John Peeters, managed a top speed of 111.08 mph (178.8 km/h) on the first run and 117.5 mph (189 km/h) on the second, arriving at the 114.2 mph average.

The Princeton Electric Speedboating team at Lake Townsend last month
The Princeton Electric Speedboating team at Lake Townsend last month

Princeton University

For reference, when an electric speedboat made by Jaguar set the same type of world record five years ago, it managed an average top speed of just 88.61 mph (142.6 km/h).

Earlier this year, Canada’s Vision Marine claimed a 116 mph (186.7 km/h) record of its own, although it was set on a non-APBA-certified “point-and-shoot” event in which the boat had three quarters of a mile (1,207 m) to accelerate from 40 mph (64.4 km/h) up to its top speed … sort of like drag racing for boats.

Big Bird on one its two flying kilometer runs
Big Bird on one its two flying kilometer runs

Princeton University

Developed with input from California’s Black Sheep Racing, the Princeton Electric Speedboating team’s “Big Bird” boat incorporates a PRO (pro racing outboard) hydroplane hull made by renowned boat builder Ed Karelsen back in 1993. When it was previously equipped with gas engines, it set multiple flying kilometer records.

This time around, the hull is propelled by a special version of Flux Marine’s FM100 electric powertrain, which has been modified to produce more power (200 hp/149 kW) while remaining lightweight. In fact, the total weight of Big Bird – John Peeters included – is just 975 lb (442 kg). Some other speed-record-attempting electric boats have been known to tip the scales at up to 4,000 lb (1,814 kg).

Due to a broken propeller shaft, Big Bird was unable to make any more attempts of its own last month. The team is now hoping that once it’s repaired, the boat may deliver an average top speed of 120 mph (193 km/h).

“We expect this space to explode in the coming years as teams like ours prove its competitiveness,” Princeton Electric Speedboating’s Edric Zhang told us. “Electric boating in general is growing at a rapid pace and it’s awesome to be part of the industry. Furthermore, there is a large effort for more electric race boats, with talk of nearly a dozen 100-plus-mph [161-km/h] electric boats by the end of 2024.”

Source: Princeton University

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