Swedish engine manufacturer Volvo Penta has been contracted to provide a hybrid solution for Hurtigruten Svalbard’s new sightseeing vessel, which will begin a pilot test in Svalbard in May 2022.

As informed, Volvo Penta is running a pilot project with Svalbard’s oldest tourist operator, Hurtigruten Svalbard, to test a hybrid Marell M15 vessel called Kvitbjørn (Polar Bear).

Powered by a Volvo Penta twin D4-320 DPI Aquamatic hybrid solution, the boat has a top speed of 32 knots and a cruising speed of 25 knots.

This vessel, designed and built by Marell Boats Sweden AB, will be able to operate safely in the demanding Arctic environment – running in sub-zero temperatures with an extensive range of 500 Nm.

The project partners believe that the near-silent vessel has the potential to transform the sustainable tourism industry, allowing tourists to experience the wonders of Svalbard without disturbing the nature and habitat around them.

This will be Hurtigruten Svalbard’s first hybrid day tour vessel powered by Volvo Penta and the companies are also trialing a potentially ground-breaking new business model, based on a ‘power-by-the-hour’ payment program.

This “e-mobility-as-a-service” model is still at the concept stage but could see future development down the line. Hurtigruten Svalbard will trial paying by the kilowatt-hour for its operation, with the boat set to run for more than 1,000 hours during the tourist season (1 May – 31 October).

“We are thrilled to be working with Volvo Penta as they take sustainable marine engineering to a new level. And what a fitting place to test this hybrid vessel – the beautiful but fragile Svalbard, which is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” Daniel Skjeldam, CEO of Hurtigruten Group, said.

All the interfaces between the hybrid drive and supporting systems were developed through close collaboration between Marell Boats and Volvo Penta. These include the charging, ventilation, heating, and air-conditioning systems. The complete power drivetrain solution for the vessel is based on the Volvo Penta D4/D6 Aquamatic DPI package.

“This plug-in hybrid electric approach takes us further down the path in Volvo Penta’s sustainability vision,” Peter Granqvist, Chief Technology Officer, Volvo Penta, said.

Specifically, the Volvo Penta DPI package features a hydraulic clutch for silent and smooth shifting at low engine speeds, as well as added maneuverability – perfect for slow cruising. With steer-by-wire technology, the joystick functionality is also precise – delivering greater control. The complete hybrid solution delivers the best of both worlds — range and speed from the diesel engine combined with silent operation from the electrical motor, all packed inside the Marell M15, for easy and safe operation and maintenance, according to the company.

“The parallel hybrid system is very responsive and provides seamless power transition between the electric and diesel propulsion,” the company explained.

Testing

The boat is currently at Volvo Penta’s marine test facility in Krossholmen, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Soon, it will make its way to Marell Boats in Östhammar – where it will go through further checks ahead of delivery in May 2022.

When Hurtigruten Svalbard receives the boat, the company will then put it through its own detailed checks.

“The hybrid technology from Volvo Penta will enable our guests to experience the wonders of Svalbard without disturbing the nature and habitat around them,” Skjeldam concluded.

“We also look forward to testing out its pay-by-the-hour e-mobility service.”

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