High-latitude tourism company Hurtigruten Svalbard has launched a hybrid-electric excursion vessel, the first of its kind, in Longyearbyen, just 800 miles from the North Pole.

The 14-metre vessel, Kvitbjørn, runs on a hybrid-electric propulsion system developed by Volvo Penta in partnership with Swedish builder Marell Boats and Hurtigruten Svalbard.

The new 12-passenger aluminum vessel, which will take tourists out into the wild around Svalbard during the local tourist season from May to October, was delivered to the remote archipelago on April 19 and was put through its paces in a series of tests before entering service. May 5. The boat also underwent extensive testing in Sweden before delivery.

Powered by a Volvo Penta twin D4-320 DPI Aquamatic hybrid solution, the boat has a top speed of 30-32 knots and a cruising speed of 24-25 knots, with a range of 500 nautical miles. Volvo Penta’s “helm-to-propeller” propulsion system includes the engine and transmission, electronic boat control (EVC), joystick control, dynamic positioning system and operator interface. The capacity of the ship’s lithium-ion batteries is 100 kilowatt hours (kWh).

Tore Hoem, director of adventures at Hurtigruten Svalbard, said the company had considered ordering a vessel with other propulsion options such as more traditional outboard motors, but ultimately opted for Volvo’s hybrid-electric solution. Penta based on improving the passenger experience as well as its environmental benefits. .

“The difference with a traditional boat is the feeling of silence. In electric mode you will be able to hear the sound of the glacier ice in the water, the breath of the walruses, this will allow us to offer a truly unique experience to our customers. Allowing for the optimal mix of quiet low-speed cruising and the ability to travel a great distance during the 3-4 hour duration of the tour,” Hoem said.

Gerard Törneman, Key Account Manager for Commercial Vessels at Marell Boats, said: “We worked together from the start to identify the ideal boat design for the ultimate operating and touring experience. The Marell and Volvo Penta technicians worked well together on the design and installation of important support systems for the arctic climate, such as the heating, ventilation and charging system. This type of collaboration is essential with hybrid and electric solutions to ensure that the technology is perfectly suited to the intended use case.

Tore Hoem, Adventure Director at Hurtigruten Svalbard, pilot Kvitbjørn. (Photo: Eric Haun)

Kvitbjørn is part of wider sustainability efforts led by both the Hurtigruten Group and Volvo Penta, alongside peers from the tourism and marine industry working to reduce their environmental impacts . Increasingly, hybrid and electric propulsion solutions are attracting interest from marine operators striving to reduce emissions in various sectors.

Johan Inden, President of Volvo Penta’s Marine Business Unit, said: “We see electromobility as an enabler for many marine business operations, which have short, dedicated journeys, as our industry strives to achieve a future without CO2 emissions. Kvitbjørn’s operation fits our expected electromobility user case and we are excited to learn how we can accelerate the path to sustainability together. »

As the ship gets to work, Volvo Penta will analyze the fuel savings and emission reductions enabled by the hybrid-electric solution, Inden said.

Additionally, over the next three years, the companies will test electromobility technology as well as Volvo Penta’s new ‘e-mobility-as-a-service’ business model, which will see Hurtigruten Svalbard pay by the kilowatt-hour. for the operation of the ship. This payment model, although still in the design stage, was designed as a means of risk sharing between Volvo Penta and the end user, as the initial costs of marine e-mobility solutions are generally higher. .

“We need to undertake pilot programs like this collaboration with Hurtigruten Svalbard and Marell Boats,” Inden said. unique features – DPS and joystick for example – for hybrid and electric use. Testing our solutions in this extreme environment and testing new business models will allow us to continue to innovate and explore, all with the goal of delivering an unparalleled experience on the water – in this case, helping to enable the ultimate adventure. at sea. “