First sea test for Volvo Penta’s Arctic-bound advanced hybrid solution

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A new Volvo Penta hybrid solution on a Marell Boats M15 vessel has completed its first sea trials.

Ahead of going into operation with Hurtigruten Svalbard for sightseeing, the vessel, named the Kvitbjørn (Polar Bear), underwent testing by Volvo Penta engineers and project team leads at the company’s marine test facility in Krossholmen, Gothenburg. The site was used to replicate the icy conditions in which the vessel will operate in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.

The project marks one of the first times that Volva Penta has taken a full-systems approach when developing a hybrid-electric solution. It is also the first time the company has designed a battery system to work in Arctic temperatures. With a range of 500 nautical miles, the hybrid vessel is highly maneuverable and almost silent when used in a fully electric mode.

“This project was one of many firsts,” explained Mario Celegin, project lead. “The battery system is particularly interesting. Usually, these systems have to be cooled to between 20-30°C to operate safely and efficiently. But this vessel will be working in extreme temperatures – the average summer water temperature in Svalbard is around -2 to 0°C. To keep the battery temperatures at a steady 15°C, we’ve had to develop an integrated heating and cooling system that doesn’t circulate seawater to avoid icing.”

To ensure the vessel and its systems correctly operate, Volvo Penta’s testing program was split into two sections. Firstly, the company carried out an accelerated test program of a prototype vessel to ascertain issues such as software bugs. The results were then used to develop the final vessel.

Secondly, the vessel was tested at sea for a short period to ensure it was fit for purpose. The short testing period also limited wear on the vessel’s components ahead of delivery. Engineers, software developers, and professional test drivers from Volvo Penta conducted tests for endurance, performance and stability, electromagnetic compliance, battery cooling, heating performance and diagnosis.

“I’m extremely proud of what we have accomplished with this new hybrid vessel,” said Celegin. “This ‘learning by doing’ approach is a new way of working for us, but it’s been so inspiring. Working in a small productive team over the last two years has meant that we’ve been able to progress quickly and efficiently make decisions. Most of all it’s been a fun learning experience. I’m excited to see the results of our customer sea trials.”

The Kvitbjørn vessel is currently at Marell Boats for the final parts of the build to be completed. The hybrid Marell M15 will then begin official sea trials in May 2022 at the hands of Svalbard’s oldest tourist operator, Hurtigruten Svalbard. The trials are scheduled to run for several years.

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After spending six years working as a mechanic for various motorsport and high-end performance car companies, Callum joined UKi Media & Events in February 2020 as an assistant editor. In this role he uses his vast practical knowledge and passion for automotive to produce informative news pieces for multiple vehicle-related sectors.

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