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Hurtigruten Svalbard: A new hybrid vessel for silent tourism

Volvo Penta - Hurtigruten new sustainable tourist vessel
Walrus resting on ice pack in Svalbards waters.

[Volvo Penta] Volvo Penta announces an advanced, hybrid solution for Hurtigruten Svalbard’s new sightseeing vessel, which will begin a pilot test in Svalbard in May 2022. The near-silent vessel has the potential to transform the sustainable tourism industry, allowing guests to experience the wonders of Svalbard without disturbing the nature and habitat around them.

Every year tourists flock to a remote archipelago in Norway to see its unique wildlife – walrus, puffins, seals and a variety of whales. Now, Volvo Penta is running a pilot project with Svalbard’s oldest tourist operator, Hurtigruten Svalbard, to test a state-of-the-art hybrid Marell M15 vessel called Kvitbjřrn (‘Polar Bear’ in English) that will change how tourists experience this natural wonder, delivering near-silent operation and creating a more enjoyable experience for tourists and wildlife alike.

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 tailored to the customer’s needs and robust enough to operate safely in the demanding Arctic environment – running in sub-zero temperatures with an extensive range of 500 Nm.

Volvo Penta - Hurtigruten new sustainable tourist vessel

Hurtigruten’s new sustainable tourist vessel.
Source: Hurtigruten Svalbard

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 pioneering “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). While still only a test, the concept is expected to attract significant industry attention and could revolutionize how customers buy marine e-mobility solutions, particularly as upfront costs are often a barrier.

Towards silent sustainable tourism
Hurtigruten Group, the world’s leading adventure travel company, allows guests to explore unique destinations in a sustainable and meaningful way. It also runs the Hurtigruten Foundation, centered around conservation, to ensure its guests of tomorrow can enjoy the same meaningful travel experiences as those today. In the spirit of this, the new hybrid day-cruiser with Volvo Penta power system allows for fully electric operation in the environmentally sensitive waters of Svalbard.

“As we advance our ESG agenda in Hurtigruten Group, it’s crucially important that we work with partners that share our values and ethos,” says CEO of Hurtigruten Group Daniel Skjeldam. “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.”

Close collaboration and integrated approach
“Our aim is to be the world leader in sustainable power solutions and to do this we want to partner with companies that have the vision and courage to join us,” adds Jonas Karnerfors, Sales Project Manager at Volvo Penta. “With Hurtigruten Group we’ve got a perfect collaborator. In addition to leading-edge technology, we’re also able to pilot a new business model with them, through the ‘power-by-the-hour’ payment program. This gives us the chance to learn how this model works in a real-world context, helping us to determine if this is a viable concept for the future.”

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,” says Peter Granqvist, Chief Technology Officer, Volvo Penta. “It advances our efforts towards electrifying this part of our Volvo Penta range and we can run this program inside a real-world customer project for better understanding and learning as we push the technology into the future.”

Installing. Photo: Emelie Asplund | Hurtigruten Svalbard

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 when wildlife watching. With steer-by-wire technology, the joystick functionality is also impressively precise – again delivering greater control. This 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 efficiently inside the Marell M15, for easy and safe operation and maintenance.

“We designed the complete system to work seamlessly as a single package,” adds Peter Granqvist from Volvo Penta. “We favor this approach and it’s been a differentiator for us for some time. Through it we can deliver better driveline performance, maneuverability and acceleration compared to traditional installations. The parallel hybrid system is very responsive and provides seamless power transition between the electric and diesel propulsion.”

Testing. 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. Through this close collaboration between owners, users and other stakeholders, Volvo Penta is building its understanding of customer behavior and hybrid usage patterns.

“The hybrid technology from Volvo Penta will enable our guests to experience the wonders of Svalbard without disturbing the nature and habitat around them,” concludes Daniel Skjeldam. “We also look forward to testing out its pay-by-the-hour e-mobility service.”