VOLVO-PENTA’s ADVANCED hybrid solution for Hurtigruten Svalbard’s new sightseeing vessel, the Kvitbjørn (Polar Bear), was put through its paces.

The tests were performed by Volvo Penta engineers and project team leads to make sure the solution was ready for official customer sea trials in the icy waters of Svalbard.

The vessel – which was first announced in November 2021 by Volvo Penta and Hurtigruten Svalbard – has the potential to transform the sustainable tourism industry by allowing guests to experience the wonders of Svalbard without disturbing the area’s habitat, thanks to its near-silent operation.

She will be formally unveiled in May at a special launch ceremony in Svalbard, before going into a three-year pilot test with Hurtigruten Svalbard.

But before the vessel was delivered, the Volvo Penta team performed extensive tests and verifications at Volvo Penta’s marine test facility in Krossholmen, Gothenburg.

This boat represents a big step in Volvo Penta’s journey to electromobility at sea. The company has taken a full-systems approach when developing a hybrid-electric solution and it’s one of the first times the company has designed a battery system for Arctic temperatures.


“This project was one of many firsts,” says project lead, Mario Celegin. “The battery system is particularly interesting. Usually, these systems have to be cooled to between 20-30°C to operate safely and efficiently. But this vessel will be working in extreme temperatures – the average summer water temperature in Svalbard is around -2 to 0°C. To keep the battery temperatures at a steady 15°C, we’ve had to develop an integrated heating and cooling system that doesn’t circulate seawater to avoid icing.”

All this new technology means that testing is more important than ever.

So far, the vessel ticks all of the boxes for Volvo Penta and Hurtigruten Svalbard. It is virtually silent in fully electric mode, and has a range of 500 nm. The Volvo Penta team was especially pleased with the ease when switching between driving modes.

Kvitbjørn is currently with boatbuilder Marell Boats for the final detailing.