Around the world industry innovation

Volvo Penta: Self-Docking Boats Now a Reality

Volvo is back at it again in their leaps of ingenious engineering, essentially leaving the world stunned. A boat capable of finding and designing a free berth, allowing for self-docking? Volvo Penta’s new technology will ease the stress of nervous dockers; Now they have demonstrated this new system which can be illustrated in the video below:

The development of automation technology is moving fast. And although the headings are primarily related to the automotive industry – it happens a lot in other types of vehicles. During the Volvo Ocean Race, Volvo Penta revealed its self-docking boat – and the technology itself attracting many big-boat owners. One of the main reasons for Volvo Penta’s rapidly expanding news in the field of electric power and hybrid solutions is to be able to progress without emission. It is becoming increasingly important when more and more countries face areas where it is forbidden to drive an internal combustion engine. The Gothenburg company’s hybrid solution is designed for the IPS (Inboard Performance System). IPS was launched for the first time in 2005 and currently only for diesel engines.

With hybrid operation, boat owners have access to electronic control for handling the entire boat. In addition, boats with the new hybrid system get other benefits, such as lower noise levels and reduced vibration and lower operating costs. IPS hybrid system is planned from engine startup of 8-13 liters. This means that larger pleasure boats, ferries, pilot boats and some supply vessels will be involved. Hybrid technology within the spectrum of the company is not new, however, and has been developed within the larger Volvo Group, including trucks, buses and construction machines.

Hybrid systems implemented


Hybrid systems provide flexible solutions while maintaining high efficiency from the IPS system.  With the full torque of the electric motor right from the start, the boat driver gets better control over the boat and it is also possible to drive at speeds up to 10-12 knots.


A backwash with coupling and an electric motor is that which is connected between the diesel engine and the IPS pod. The electric motor receives power of selectable size with lithium-ion batteries that can be connected to either DC or AC power.

With fully open clutch, the boat is powered by electric power only and with the clutch closed, both diesel and electrical operation are used in parallel. This gives the captain a number of new propulsion opportunities.

Volvo Penta says that maintenance and service costs are falling radically with the hybrid system. The batteries and the electric motor are basically maintenance-free with long service life.

The system is still under development at the company’s test center at Krossholmen in Gothenburg. Hybrid IPS will be available commercially to customers in 2021 and then also for the pleasure boat market. Over time, the system will include more hybrid technology and electrical variants.

Volvo Penta’s latest news underlines the importance of allowing the automotive and transport industry to develop systems that can then be adapted to marine propulsion.

Self-parking cars have been around for a while and the technology is proven. Now they come for the first time to the marine world. And it has not been just lifting the techniques. Because unlike asphalt – the water masses move.

During the show, the Volvo Penta had a pretty 68-foot yacht that only managed to line and back in between two sailboats.

“Attacking is one of the most challenging manoeuvres – failing can be embarrassing, expensive and dangerous,” says Björn Ingemanson, Head of Volvo Penta in a press release.

The system relies on two existing technologies, and in addition to the usual sensors of the boat, it requires a further position in the boat – and the bridge has a “feasible” for automation by having sensors.

Mentioning Volvo’s steps to revolutionise engines, the move in the water is not the only one in recent times, as the new electric engine as part of the S60 range will be manufactured at Volvo’s brand new factory in the United States. 

“Our future is electric and we will not develop any more new diesel engines,” said Volvo boss Håkan Samuelsson in a statement earlier in the year.

He emphasized that Volvo now cuts models that have traditional gasoline or diesel engines – replacing them with hybrid engines. Here we talk about both chargeable and so-called mild hybrids. Volvo sees this as an intermediate solution, on the road to having only full-electric vehicles. It would not be surprising if they implement some of this core technology into other areas across the board, but let’s continue with boats…

The technique that controls the boats


The systems used are the Inboard Performance System, which means that you can control the boat with a joystick. The technique means, among other things, that one hand can easily manoeuvre a larger boat and, for example, rotate it around its own axis.

The second technique is called Dynamic Positioning Functionality. This makes the boat stand still in the same position in the water – no matter how hard it is blowing or flowing. The system uses GPS data and when activated, it is almost like placing a handbrake.

Together they both make the boat calm and still can position themselves for angling and then with the bow, the stern or the side drive towards a quayside.

As mentioned above, technology has been demonstrated, but Volvo Penta says it will not be launched commercially until the earliest 2020. Firstly to private individuals, then to shipyards, ports and other marine operations.

Interestingly, the system will not only be something for the new boat market. According to Volvo Penta, all boats with IPS technology should be able to “retrofit” the function.

It’ll be interesting to see how they progress in their development over the next couple of years.

Evolvera – always changing, always evolving

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