Every year tourists flock to a remote archipelago in Norway to see its unique wildlife – walrus, puffins, seals and a variety of whales. And now a new vessel with the potential to transform the sustainable tourism industry, is to begin a pilot test in Svalbard in May 2022.
Volvo Penta is running the pilot project with Svalbard’s oldest tourist operator, Hurtigruten Svalbard. The state-of-the-art hybrid Marell M15 vessel ‘Kvitbjørn’ (’Polar Bear’ in English) will change how tourists experience this natural wonder, delivering near-silent operation and enabling guests to experience the wonders of Svalbard without disturbing the nature and habitat around them; a more enjoyable experience for tourists and wildlife alike.
Powered by a Volvo Penta twin D4-320 DPI Aquamatic hybrid solution, the vessel has a top speed of 32 knots and a cruising speed of 25 knots. Designed and built by Marell Boats Sweden AB, ‘Kvitbjørn’ will be tailored to the customer’s needs and is robust enough to operate safely in the demanding Arctic environment – running in sub-zero temperatures with an extensive range of 500 Nm. ‘Kvitbjørn’ is Hurtigruten Svalbard’s first hybrid day tour vessel powered by Volvo Penta.
The two companies are also trialling a potentially ground-breaking new business model, based on a ‘power-by-the-hour’ payment program. 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). This is still at the concept stage but could see future development down the line; the pioneering “e-mobility-as-a-service” model 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.
“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.”
“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.”