Volvo Penta unveils hybrid marine propulsion concept

Designed to enable zero emission running for marine vessels, Volvo Penta has unveiled a hybrid concept for its inboard performance system (IPS) propulsion system. The electric-only mode allows entry into environmentally sensitive zones, as well as offering enhanced onboard comfort and boat handling characteristics.

The hybrid variant will allow boats to operate in the low-and-zero emission zones that are expected to be introduced in the coming years. The hybrid configuration was also designed to bring additional benefits, including lower noise, vibrations and running costs.

The IPS hybrid system is planned initially for the eight- to 13-litre engine range – suitable for powering vessels such as ferries, pilot and supply boats. It uses hybrid technology first developed within the Volvo Group, which Volvo Penta is now adapting and certifying for marine applications, using its boat propulsion experience.

A clutch and electric motor are added between the engine and the IPS pod. The electric motor is supported by scalable (depending on application needs) Li-ion battery packs that can be charged externally using AC or DC chargers; or recharged using the primary diesel engine. Opening of the clutch allows the boat to run in electric-only mode, and with the clutch closed both diesel and electric power can be used in parallel. In terms of operation, the captain will use the familiar control interfaces of the IPS system, with the addition of new drive modes to choose from.

The modular nature of the battery packs allows customers to tailor the design and performance of both commercial and leisure boats. More battery capacity offers extended electric-only cruising, and – with frequent external charging – the use of smaller diesel engines and lower fuel costs. With the electric motor and batteries maintenance-free – and the diesel engine operating for fewer hours – the cost of servicing should also be noticeably lower. Volvo Penta said it would continue to support customers in tailoring a prop-to-helm configuration based on the specific application needs.

The parallel hybrid IPS is currently in early stage development, with the system being validated at the company’s test centre in Gothenburg, and a test boat planned to enter sea trials in early 2020. During this process, customer input will play an important element in developing the system for use in a range of marine applications. The hybrid IPS will be available to commercial customers in 2021.