Volvo Penta Reveals Two New Ground-Breaking Boating Technologies


In the past few months, Swedish boating engine and power system manufacturers Volvo Penta have been on a roll, presenting two sets of record-changing technologies that are intended to change the world of marine transport and leisure for the better.


The first, ‘self-docking’ technology, was revealed in Gothenburg, Sweden, at the Volvo Ocean Race ‘race village’, which is the penultimate stop for seven sailors in the renowned around the world sailing race sponsored by Volvo. The technology works in a similar way to driverless cars parking on their own; but with the added challenge of the ocean, which is mobile, unlike standard asphalt roads. During the event, crowds watched from the shore as the skipper of a 68ft yacht simply pressed a button and let the yacht do all the hard work, navigating itself into a dock space between and parallel to two sailing boats.

The technology requires several additions to the boat; first of all, additional sensors are added to the craft. A sensor around the size of a cereal box is added to the boat itself, along with four additional sensors which are placed on the dock. Although self-docking is a new technology, it has been made possible by riding on two existing Volvo technologies. The first is Volvo’s Inboard Performance System (IPS), which makes it possible to steer a boat using a joystick. As a result, this technology provides an excellent level of maneuverability. The boat can be propelled forwards, backward, and even sideways using simple joystick positions, and can even be easily rotated around a fixed point using just one hand. Secondly, Volvo used an established technology called ‘dynamic positioning functionality’ to create the self-docking system. Similar to car engines, this technology allows sailors to position a boat and hold it there in the water as if a handbrake had been set.

According to Anders Thorin, Volvo Penta’s manager of Product Planning for Electronics, the system is able to react much faster than an individual. However, he recommends that you should always remain there as captain to oversee the docking. The operation can be manually paused or aborted if needed. The system is also equipped to advise the captain if the weather is unsuitable for the system to operate effectively.

Creating an Easier Docking Process:

Any experienced mariner will tell you that docking is by far one of the most stressful situations on a boat. You need to be on high alert, constantly looking around for other things whilst all the while ensuring that the boat is headed in the right direction. In marinas today, boaters often find themselves in busy, crowded situations where there are more variables and risks to think about during the docking process.

As the technology spreads, marinas are expected to become more enabled, providing spaces that allow for self-docking that boaters can book in advance. Whilst it may not be available just yet, you may be able to add self-docking technology to any of these motor boats for sale in the future.

Hybrid Boating:

It’s not just self-docking that’s set to take the boating world by storm; Volvo Penta also recently unveiled plans for a new hybrid propulsion system which is set to become commercially available by 2021. The Volvo Group already has over four thousand hybrid buses in operation around the world today, so they’re no strangers to the benefits of hybrid transportation technology. In fact, the powertrain used for boating is very similar, giving Volvo engineers an advantage of being well experienced with this type of technology.

According to the Director of Electromobility Business Development for Volvo Penta, Niklas Thulin, the technology is planned to be first applied to yachts and ferries and will allow boats to operate using a parallel supply of both electric and diesel power, by driving the motors for each on the same shaft. To do this, a permanent, liquid cooled magnet electric motor will be added to the powertrain. This will supply continuous power that will be sufficient to produce speeds above ten knots for the majority of yachts. If a shorter power boost is needed, such as for maneuvering or accelerating, it will be possible to overload the electric motor for a short period of time.

Benefits of Hybrid Boat Engines:

We have already seen numerous benefits of electric and hybrid cars, and this technology appears set to bring even more benefits to the world of marine transport. For example, hybrid technologies may evolve to allow both boats to share the same charging power sources as road vehicles once at the shore, in addition to being far more energy efficient and much quieter when running. Volvo Penta already wants to take this one step further, with plans for auto-parking when a boat is docked already underway.

Volvo Penta is working towards a more powerful and peaceful future for boating.