I got to zoom around on the Hudson River in a greased-lightning-fast 1400-horsepower Cigarette boat earlier this week. It wasn’t a bad day at the office. Eager to learn more, I reached out to the Mercury engineers to learn a little more about what drives this awesome thing.
Mercury’s director of product and engine integration, Thousand-Yard-Stare-With-Fishing-Hat Daniel Clarkson, kindly clarified a few things readers and I wondered about the Cigarette boat via email.
The four keys you see above are indeed for each engine. Each engine is started individually because there are times when you may not want all four engines running. Like when you’re trying to make a sneaky getaway and you need to be quiet. Or save fuel. Or both.
All of the boats have one key for each engine. In some, the keys are in the cabin and there are buttons on a track pad that allow the engine to be started individually.
Beyond that is the engine management, where the function of making horsepower is controlled by the ECU on the engine. And there are two modules inside the boat that control the steering position. At the dash, there is one module for the engine. Together, these modules read the inputs from the boat’s driver to coordinate all the steering, throttle and shifting needed, as well as allowing for the boat to work with any combination of engines.
In terms of maximizing efficiency, cars employ technology like cylinder deactivation, direct injection and forced induction. In the Verado outboard engines, downsizing and boosting are used via a supercharger. On top of that, the Active Trim can actually increase the fuel economy by 20 to 50 percent (depending on the style of the boat.)
Many of you also expressed curiosity over the boat’s gas mileage at wide open throttle.
A boat’s fuel consumption is a vastly different beast than that of a car’s. For one thing, propellors are not very efficient at converting rotational motion into forward motion—there are churning losses, our own David Tracy explains. Additionally, open water conditions vary much more drastically than road conditions, so the amount of fuel it takes to cover a distance can change dramatically.
As a result, fuel consumption in a boat is measured in gallons per hour, not miles per gallon, according to Boating Magazine. It goes on to say that:
You measure fuel efficiency in pounds of fuel used per horsepower developed per hour....gasoline weighs about 6.1 pounds per gallon and diesel fuel 7.2 pounds per gallon.
On average, an in-tune four-stroke gasoline engine will burn about 0.50 pounds of fuel per hour for each unit of horsepower. Likewise, a well-maintained diesel engine burns about 0.4 pounds of fuel per hour for each unit of horsepower it produces.
Emphasis mine, because this is a rule of thumb for when the engine is making peak horsepower, which is typically near wide open throttle.
This means that the 1400-HP cigarette boat burns an average of 700 pounds of fuel per hour. Divide that by 6.1 pounds, and you get about 114.8 GPH, which breaks down further into roughly 28.7 GPH per engine. Of course, this is just an estimate, as we did not take into account sea conditions, transmission losses or drag of the boat.
In this thread, user propbender24 reported that his quad 300 Mercury Optimax, a similar setup to the quad Verado 350s, wasn’t able to top 1.5 mpg while he drove his boat at different constant speeds. However, he imagines that 1.5 mpg “is possible in the 40 [mph-range].”
I would also like to point out that this is the math that we used because it seemed most logical to us.
114.8 GPH is a lot of fuel, but that’s just something that everyone signs up for when they get into boating. I would guess that the fact that the Cigarette boat uses a lot of gas surprises exactly no one.
Sure was fun, though.