With an energy storage capacity of 83 kiloWatt hours, the 400V electric boat battery was developed by eDriveLab, a University of Parma e-mobility spin-off recently acquired by hydrojet manufacturer Sealence/DeepSpeed. The technology is scheduled to be available for large-scale supply in early 2023.
DeepSpeed moving quickly in 2022
DeepSpeed has had a fast start to 2022, beginning in Las Vegas in January at the CES 2022 (Consumer Electronics Show) where the company showcased a new hybrid system combining their electric jet motor with a diesel powered N67 570 EVO from multinational powertrain manufacturer FPT Industrial.
Sealence (the corporate name – DeepSpeed is the hydrojet brand) also opened a US office, started work on the retrofitting of a 160 passenger tourist ferry for the Gulf of Naples and founder William Gobbo (seen in the photo above) outlined an ambitious expansion program to “seize opportunities for growth through the acquisition of companies with highly specialized skills or high technological content.” That is the area where eDriveLAB fits in.
Professor of Engineering Davide Lusignani founded eDriveLAB as a spinoff from the University of Parma in 2017. The idea was to create a cluster of professors, researchers and engineers focused on electric mobility. Being close to Italy’s ‘Motor Valley’ – home of Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini – it started out concentrating on EVs (Ferrari is a customer) but expanded to industrial applications like tractors.
Their work and growing list of patents caught the attention of Sealence and in August of 2020 the companies started working together. The first project was a range extender to help grow the market for DeepSpeed beyond all electric recreational boats to hybrid applications in larger vessels.
Both companies soon realized that if eDriveLAB were under the corporate wing of Sealence it could be beneficial for everyone. Lusignani told Italian naval website PressMare that “William and I closed an agreement in a few minutes in August, with a granita enjoyed on a beach in Calabria!”
This arrangement has allowed eDriveLAB to expand its resources to about 15 engineers, along with openings for researchers and others. More importantly, it has given everyone the freedom to think about making great technology, not worrying about the day to day survival issues of a start-up.
The high power electric boat battery is one of the first projects to come from the expanded team.
Safety top priority for high power electric boat battery
As electric boats gain in popularity, there is increasing desire for more power, either to provide speed for smaller boats or the ‘muscle’ required for larger vessels. In either case, it generally means high voltage batteries.
Batteries for electric vehicles are often 400V to 800V, so eDriveLAB coming from the world of EVs means they are well versed in what is required to transfer the capabilities to an electric boat.
The new Sealence battery is 400V, with a maximum power output of 250kW and an energy storage capacity of 83kWh – comparable to a Tesla Model 3, Polestar 2 or BMW i4 eDrive40. Unlike those EV packs, which have a low height to fit in the chassis of four-wheeled vehicles, the electric boat battery has more carton-like dimensions: 982mm x 931mm x 633mm (38″ x 36″ x 24″).
All of the BMS (Battery Management System), including control electronics and internal battery sensors, were developed and patented by eDriveLAB. Lusignani explains it uses “intelligent proprietary algorithms to coordinate multi-battery systems and ensure easy modularity and excellent redundancy”. (Redundancy is engineer speak for duplication of critical components or functions of a system to ensure reliability.)
One of the keys for all batteries, but especially big ones, and especially ones at sea, is safety. This was really the starting point for developing the battery for DeepSpeed.
Gobbo asked for “the safest ever planned”, so it can be installed with confidence on everything DeepSpeed can propel – from small to large yachts to passenger ferries. Many of those will incorporate the hybrid system demonstrated at CES, in which the batteries are charged by the FPT diesel engine. FPT was also involved in the battery testing and development.
Expansion to US, China, Australia/New Zealand
To achieve that safety factor, the new electric boat battery incorporates eDriveLAB’s cooling system, with the lithium cells immersed in a liquid solution that envelopes them completely. This not only maintains optimum temperature for the individual cells but also means that if one were to be damaged and catch fire, it would not be able to propagate and infect the adjacent cells. The battery has received certification from worldwide registrar DNV GL as well as RINA (Registro Italiano Navale).
You can expect to hear more from Sealence/DeepSpeed in the coming months and years with their announced investment plan of over 50 Million Euros. Their new branch in the ‘Silicon Beach’ area of Los Angeles will be followed by others in Shanghai and Australia/New Zealand. Integration of other tech companies is also on the horizon.
“Sealence has the strength and credibility to aggregate these companies, enhancing them and concentrating them on the development of the most incredible, cleanest and most advanced naval propulsion ever.” says Gobbo. “We are taking navigation to a new and cleaner evolutionary level and here at Sealence these talents will be able to express themselves and make a very real and substantial difference”.