A new chapter in Volvo Penta emobility efforts is unfolding as the company becomes the majority shareholder of marine battery and electric driveline solutions supplier ZEM AS.
Volvo Penta is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of motors for boats of all sizes, and this acquisition is an important step in its march to sustainable propulsion options, which it outlined in 2019 with the goal of offering electrified solutions in both its marine and industrial segments by 2021.
ZEM (Zero Emission Maritime solutions) is a Norwegian company with a reputation for contributing to some landmark electrification achievements. It provided the batteries for the multi-award-winning Vision of the Fjords sightseeing ferry (shown here), the high speed battery-driven catamaran Ryger Elektra and the Norsafe electric free-fall lifeboats used to evacuate crews during emergencies on offshore oil platforms.
(If you’ve got a minute and twelve seconds to be entertained and impressed, take a look at the video of the lifeboat test drop at the bottom of this page.)
Builds on Volvo Penta emobility projects
“As a part of the Volvo Group’s great electromobility initiatives, Volvo Penta has a solid technology foundation to leverage. Marine electromobility, however, has a unique set of requirements,” said Peter Granqvist, Chief Technology Officer, Volvo Penta. “The ambition of this fantastic acquisition is to take another step forward in our electromobility development, thanks to the specialized marine competence and offer that ZEM has today.”
Those emobility initiatives for Volvo Group include a delivery of 150 electric buses to the transport authorities in the company’s home town of Gothenburg, Sweden. It is part of a big vision called ‘ElectriCity’ and it includes the waters of Gothenburg, where a Volvo Penta emobility project was the retrofitting of the diesel ferry Älvsnabben 4.
Then there is recreational boating. At the 2019 Cannes Yachting Festival the company unveiled an electric saildrive it developed in conjunction with prestige catamaran builder Fountaine Pajot.
They also got input from about 100 captains, sailors, dealers and technicians on an interface that is designed specifically for electric boating. “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.”
All of these moves show Volvo Penta is putting the various elements in place to provide complete systems for customers looking at electric propulsion. Volvo Penta’s Granqvist’s elaborated on the plans, saying “We believe that bringing different perspectives and experiences together is key when it comes to developing, and progressing, within the field of marine electromobility.”
Collaboration will grow gradually
While ZEM is best known for its battery solutions, it also has its own electric drive platform and the company will remain operating under its current brand, continuing to grow both the battery and driveline business. The collaboration between Volvo Penta and ZEM is expected to develop gradually and over time the two companies will create complete packages together.
In both the short and long term, this is a combination of talents and technologies that will benefit the companies and the overall transition of boats and ships to zero emission propulsion. Volvo Penta will support ZEM’s growth through its established network, while ZEM’s experience will help Volvo Penta accelerate development projects. Together the companies will expand and accelerate the range and capabilities of Volvo Penta emobility.
“Volvo Penta’s vision is to become a leader in sustainable power solutions, where we are driving transformation on land and at sea towards a more sustainable society,” explains Heléne Mellquist, President of Volvo Penta. “With this acquisition, we are now able to offer driveline solutions for marine customers through ZEM and also contribute to the broader marine electromobility footprint through battery supply. It is a step forward in our transformation and will also allow Volvo Penta to capture new opportunities.”