Volvo Penta developing all-electric boating interface

Following input from boaters testing its new all-electric saildrive system, Volvo Penta is refining its cockpit interface to make the electric boating experience as easy and intuitive as possible.

Volvo Penta has made a firm committed to electric marine propulsion and introduced its first all-electric saildrive at the Cannes Yachting Festival in September, working with catamaran builder Fountaine Pajot to incorporate twin 15kW motors into a Lucia 40 model.

They enlisted the help of about 100 captains, sailors, dealers, technicians and other partners to get hands-on experience and provide input about the whole system gathered from real-life usage.
Read how Volvo’s electric bus charging is being tested for ferries

The interface in V-P’s Glass Cockpit System turned out to be one of the parts of the chain where the difference between fossil fuel and electric boats was most apparent.

One of the big differences of course is that boaters need to know about battery range and charging capabilities instead of measuring fuel consumption. But the company found out more about what the captain expects and requires.

Electric motor silent experience is very different

“Electric drivelines are very different from combustion engines; they don’t behave in the same way when it’s put into gear – you don’t have the sound or the vibrations – so other sources of information become important to the driver” said Tobias Ångman, UX designer, Volvo Penta.

“This silent experience is very different, and we wanted to learn firsthand how users expect the interface to guide them at a glance when driving.”

Photo of Volvo Penta's first all-electric saildrive motorThe goal is to make sure the interface totally lines up with V-P’s philosophy of making everything intuitive. This includes the ability to easily monitor maneuvering of the boat as well as the energy balance for the battery. The trick from a ‘behind the scenes’ standpoint is that all energy outputs and inputs need to be considered to provide the information the user needs to make the best decisions.

Talking about next steps, Volvo Penta Director of Marine Product Planning Anna Lindgren said “The prototype is being designed for use across our marine electromobility platform. This customer input at an early stage helps us design the best interface. Testing it onboard the catamaran was a great chance for us to capture learnings and feedback.”

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