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Volvo Penta Showcases Hybrid Electric Boat for Arctic

By: BoatBlurb Staff

Marell Boats M15
The Marell Boats M15

Volvo Penta has partnered with Marell Boats and ecotourism company Hurtigruten Svalbard to produce a hybrid-electric boat for Arctic tourism. The boat uses a hybrid electrical system paired with Volvo Penta diesel engines, the first of its kind in the industry.

The new vessel, dubbed Kvitbjørn, which translates to 'polar bear,' is Marell's M15 design -- a 48-foot aluminum expedition hull powered by twin 320 horsepower D4 diesel engines. When the diesels are disengaged, electric motors and high-capacity batteries take over to turn the Aquamatic sterndrives.

“We are so excited to see this vessel go into operation,” Johan Inden, president of the Volvo Penta marine business, said in a statement. “We see electromobility as an enabler for many marine commercial operations that have short, dedicated journeys as our industry strives toward a zero CO2 emissions future. The Kvitbjørn operation fits our expected electromobility user case and we’re excited to learn how we can accelerate the journey toward sustainability, together.”

“The difference from a traditional boat is the feeling of silence. In electric mode, you can hear the sound of the glacier ice in the water, the breath of walruses – it will allow us to offer a truly unique experience to our customers" said Tore Hoem, Adventures Director at Hurtigruten Svalbard. "Enabling the optimal mix of low-speed, silent cruising, and the ability to cover a lot of distance for the 3–4-hour duration of the tour. We look forward to the experience of driving it – and expect our guests will be just as excited by the silent experience on board.

The boat packs impressive performance figures under diesel power with a stop speed of 30 knots (34 mph), a cruising speed of 24 knots (27 mph), and a total range of 500 nautical miles, but no performance data for the electric motors was released. One of the main advantages for a tourist vessel will be the ability to experience nature without interference. Tours around the region include sightings of polar bears, puffins, seals, walrus, and a variety of whales.

The Kvitbjørn also uses Volvo Penta's integrated Electronic Vessel Control system (EVC), with a uniquely developed Human Machine Interface (HMI), which allows the operator to shift between driving modes seamlessly. It also allows Volvo Penta the ability to offer one point of contact for aftermarket support, and enables the company to monitor and learn from vessels in real-time.

The vessel’s maiden voyage began last week from Svalbard, Norway, an island archipelago north of mainland Norway only 800 miles from the North Pole.

“We’re looking at the bigger picture here, it’s not just about testing a hybrid propulsion system, it's about looking at how we can adapt our unique features – the DPS and joystick for instance – for hybrid and electric use. Testing our solutions in this extreme environment and trialing new business models will enable us to continue to innovate and explore – all with the aim to deliver an unrivaled experience on the water – in this case, helping to enable the ultimate adventure at sea" said Volvo Penta president Johan Inden.

You can get a more in-depth breakdown in the video below:

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