Sustainable shift

Volvo Penta and Groupe Beneteau reveal the results of the second part of their study into sustainable boating solutions.

16 November 2023


Volvo Penta and Groupe Beneteau have completed the second phase of their study into the key drivers that will help the boating industry shift toward more sustainable boating solutions in the future.

The focus of the research was on the viability of hybrid-electric solutions as an option in what is predicted to be a multi-faceted boating future.

In 2023, the companies welcomed 120 boaters to participate in a bespoke trial that tested a hybrid-electric leisure boat concept. A Jeanneau NC 37 model was used for the purpose of the demo, equipped with a Volvo Penta twin D4-320 DPI Aquamatic hybrid-electric concept.

This project delivered feedback that will help transform the future of experiences on the water across both companies.

Participants included stakeholders from across the leisure boating segment, with trials held at Volvo Penta’s Krossholmen facility in Sweden in June and the Cannes International Yachting Festival in France in September.


Volvo Penta and Groupe Beneteau say the project is revealing further insight into the needs and behaviours of leisure boaters, where comfort is emerging as a key driver toward sustainable boating. The central findings of the research show how comfort and experience will be crucial to boaters when adopting sustainable solutions.


Better comfort, improved experience

The study incorporated 240 hours of real-world trials and gathered precise, in-depth information on the market readiness of the unique hybrid-electric experience and what could attract boaters to adopt the technology.

“What we learned from this demo is that we can leverage unique technology features, with comfort in mind, as an enabler toward choosing more sustainable boating solutions,” said Johan Inden, president of the Marine Business Unit at Volvo Penta.

“What impressed people most was the improved experience the hybrid-electric concept provides.

“Features like silent cruising; peaceful nights onboard with batteries in place of a generator; or Joystick Docking in electric mode which makes leaving or arriving on dock a silent and stress-free experience. This is what will motivate consumer behaviour in future.”


A concept to map boaters’ needs

Planning for the initiative began back in 2022, and participants ranged from beginner boaters to experts. Customers, dealers, boat builders, OEMs and media all took part, with stakeholders coming from far beyond both Volvo Penta’s and Groupe Beneteau’s networks.

The testing spanned users of cabin cruisers, multihull vessels, motor yachts, recreational trawlers and more, with the trial open to a wider database of end customers via social media, online events and email invitations – as well as walk-on participants at Cannes.

Ages spanned from 25 to over 65, with a split of men and women from across Europe and as far as Brazil and Australia. The study was designed and executed in conjunction with Swedish company Detector, an independent market research and consulting organisation.


Attracted by interest in hybrid-electric

When asked what their primary motivation was for joining the testing, the group cited three main aspects: more silent boating experiences, the potential for reduced carbon footprints and exploring new technologies.

During testing, each person underwent a 1.5-hour sea trial aboard the concept vessel, followed by a 30-minute interview. This delivered 240 hours of observations and insights.

Volvo Penta and Group Beneteau analysed the data and found that users responded most favourably to the overall elevated experience, as well as indicating that lower emissions when cruising in electric mode was also a motivator.

The sound of silence, increased precision and control, and a seamless onboard experience were highlighted as the top-rated aspects of the new technology. Over 38 per cent said the improved comfort was their most-liked aspect of the hybrid-electric experience.

After trialling the concept, respondents scored the experience an average of 4.3 on a scale of 1 to 5. Over three-quarters (76 per cent) said they are Very Likely or Likely to look at a hybrid-electric system next time they purchase a boat.


Presenting the full findings

Full details of the analysis will be presented in the next phase through a webinar from leadership at both companies.

“These trials showed us how powerful comfort, experience and an integrated system are in shaping where we go in the future,” says Erik Stromberg, Vice President of Power and Motor Yacht Development at Groupe Beneteau.

“With the hybrid-electric concept, users were immediately impressed with the instant power, control and acceleration of the integrated system.

“Defining use cases and how people enjoy their boats is invaluable to helping us understand what can motivate people to make the shift toward hybrid and electric solutions,” says Stromberg.

In the coming webinar, further details will be provided on the experiential insights the trial delivered. For example, it will explain why Joystick Docking in electric mode scored so highly, with users praising the quiet, responsive and simple control.

It will also look at why trialists were excited at the option for longer stays on board without relying on a generator. The findings of this research are already influencing ongoing project development.

“We learned so much with this project and still have more to learn. The future of sustainable boating lies in bespoke solutions. We will need to get even closer to boaters to match their needs and intended use of the boat to the ideal solution,” Inden says.

“As an industry, we need to work collectively, and we’re excited to share our knowledge and insights further to shape the future of leisure boating.”



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