Moving forward

Volvo Penta and Fountaine-Pajot reveal electric sailing catamaran in Cannes.

11 September 2019


Cannes Yachting Festival will serve as the backdrop for Volvo Penta’s unveiling of a new take on its Saildrive system – an electric Saildrive prototype. Offering the prospect of onboard comfort, near-soundless, low vibration operation, and silent mooring, the initiative is a collaboration with long term boat building partner, Fountaine Pajot. A twin installation of the electric prototype has been fitted to a Lucia 40 catamaran.

The unveiling of the electric prototype comes amid increased interest in emission-free boating and maturing of electromobility technology. More than just the electric propulsion element, Volvo Penta has taken a ‘full systems’ approach, working closely with Fountaine-Pajot to understand customer usage patterns of the complete boat.

The electric prototype is based on Fountaine-Pajot’s extensive customer usage database, which accurately defines drive cycles for a wide range of user profiles.


“The input on customer usage from Fountaine-Pajot is critical to the electric system’s design,” says Peter Granqvist, Chief Technology Officer at Volvo Penta. “Having identified user profiles, we can more accurately predict aspects of the system, like the battery lifetime, which in turn provides increased peace-of-mind to a user or captain.”

The technology behind the electric Saildrive is based on Volvo Group’s proven designs for electromobility – and many components are shared. Li-ion battery packs power an electric motor, which in turn drives the Saildrive propeller. The system offers more power and torque at low speeds compared to a similar diesel engine.

The onboard amenities – including air-conditioning – can be powered from the system’s battery packs – in silence for up to 12 hours. This will not only ensure an enhanced experience in nature but also a good night’s sleep.

Depending on speed and sea conditions, the technology has the potential for up to four hours/20 nautical miles of zero-emission electric cruising, perfect for when operating in sensitive or restricted areas. A more typical scenario would be to use the electric Saildrive for manoeuvring into-and-out-of harbours, and for powering ‘hotel’ loads (amenities onboard like air conditioning, etc).

As part of the full systems approach, Volvo Penta’s Electronic Vessel Control 2 (EVC2) system has been adapted for a Saildrive application. This features Volvo Penta’s latest controls and a new driver interface that manages navigation and battery monitoring.

“Introducing a monitoring and navigation display integrated with information from the electric driveline would offer sailboat owners improved functionality, simpler operation as well as easy and safe manoeuvring in harbours or marinas,” continues Granqvist.

The partnership with Volvo Penta is highlighting the value and desirability of electromobility to our customer base,” said Romain Motteau, Deputy CEO, Fountaine Pajot Group.

“Cruising with no noise is an incredible experience, and it’s impressive to see the power that this motor can release at slow speeds. We expect our customers to be excited about what they see in Cannes and the potential it will one day bring to their sailing experience.”

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