Hurtigruten Svalbard’s pioneering hybrid-electric vessel enters operation

Hurtigruten Svalbard’s pioneering hybrid-electric vessel enters operation

Designed for exploration in the Arctic, the Kvitbjørn is now operating sightseeing tours in Svalbard during high season

First announced in November 2021 and the result of a collaboration between Volvo Penta, Marell Boats and Hurtigruten Svalbard, the Kvitbjørn (Polar Bear) vessel is powered by a helm-to-propeller Volvo Penta twin D4-320 DPI Aquamatic hybrid-electric system.

The Kvitbjørn vessel has made its debut after a three-year pilot project to test new electromobility technology in one of the world’s most extreme maritime environments. With a top speed of 30 knots, a cruising speed of 24 knots and a range of 500 nautical miles, it’s an impressive achievement.

Speaking about the pioneering vessel, Volvo Penta Marine Business Unit president Johan Inden said: “We are so excited to see this vessel go into operation. We see electromobility as an enabler for many marine commercial operations – especially for short, dedicated journeys – as our industry strives towards a zero CO2 emissions future. The Kvitbjørn operation fits our expected electromobility user case and we’re excited to learn how, together, we can accelerate the journey toward sustainability.”

The new vessel is the result of a three-year pilot project

The vessel set off on its maiden commercial voyage from Longyearbyen, Svalbard – the world’s northernmost town, just 800 miles from the North Pole. The tourists on board were among the first in the world to experience the Arctic with an electric-powered level of quiet cruising.

Explaining what makes the vessel unique, Hurtigruten Svalbard adventures director Tore Hoem said: “We have been eager to test-drive Kvitbjørn since its arrival to Svalbard in April. The difference from a traditional boat is the feeling of silence. In electric mode, you can hear the sound of the glacier ice in the water, the breath of walruses – it will allow us to offer a truly unique experience to our customers. The vessel combines the optimal mix of low-speed, silent cruising with the ability to cover a lot of distance for the three to four-hour duration of the tour. We look forward to the experience of driving it – and expect our guests will be just as excited by the silent experience on board.”

The state-of-the-art vessel, a Marell M15, is set to change how tourists experience the natural wonders of Svalbard and its breathtaking seascapes, landscapes and unique natural wildlife, which includes polar bears, puffins, seals, walruses and a variety of whales.

Hurtigruten Foundation managing director Henrik Lund added: “We can trust that science and technology will continually improve and create opportunities for advancing sustainability measures, but we cannot wait for this to happen. We must act now and continue to test emerging solutions, so we can advance. We are proud to be working together with Volvo Penta and Marell Boats to expand the horizons of electromobility at sea.”

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