There’s a lot to be said for so-called pod propulsion. Azimuthing drives – where the conventional fixed prop and shaft are replaced with rotating leg drives or similar – have proven their worth in the commercial and cruise ship arenas, and even leisure boats have cottoned on to the benefits. Ease of manoeuvrability can be enhanced with an intuitive joystick control, meaning almost anyone can park a boat in a tight space. There can be other advantages too in design flexibility, operational efficiency and in some cases in speed.
The problem for superyachts is that pods or azimuthing units have been rather a long time coming. ABB’s Azipod, for example, was first seen in 2005 installed on Lürssen’s 90m Ice (ex-Air), and a few well-known large yachts have since embraced the concept. At the lower end of the size scale, Volvo Penta’s Inboard Performance System (IPS) is one of many that has become a popular choice for leisure boats and even tenders, but the middle ground – from, say 25m to 60m – has been rather left out. As it turns out, scaling up from the mass-market, or scaling down from the commercial, is both complicated and potentially expensive, certainly in terms of the end user in the case of the latter.
It is this, perhaps, that makes Volvo Penta’s new engine and IPS launch at the start of August so interesting. The manufacturer has taken positive steps to breach the bigger boat market in both regards, by unveiling its most powerful marine power plant yet – the 1,000hp, 13-litre D13-1000 – coupled to an upgraded IPS system which brings the tech within reach of yachts up to 36m in length.
“This is a hugely exciting time for us to create our most powerful engine yet. It’s truly a landmark product for our marine range,” says Johan Wästeräng, Volvo Penta’s vice president for product management in the marine leisure sector. “It really gives us a bigger step into the large yacht market. We’ve spent a long time talking to customers about what they want, and refining our engine and IPS designs, so that we can offer unique experiences with exceptional products that are ideal for world-class vessels.”
The D13-1000 is the result of a major redesign of the 13l engine model and drivetrain, which includes new pistons, highly efficient injectors and improved cooling to deliver an 11 per cent power gain over previous engines. “The engineering excellence and attention to detail of our design teams mean that we’ve created an engine with superior performance, comfort and reliability, taking it to the next level,” Wästeräng claims. “Our aim is to help yacht owners realise their dreams and enjoy great adventures, whether that means having fun at high speeds or simply relaxing on board for longer before refuelling. It’s all part of our easy boating philosophy.”
In tandem with the engine development, the IPS drive has also had an upgrade to handle the additional power of the new unit. The IPS component has been called, perhaps a little confusingly, the D13-IPS1350 with the ‘1350’ relating to the fact that when coupled to the D13-1000 engine it has an equivalent power of 1,350hp. The integrated IPS package, claims Volvo Penta, allows for more cruising range, higher top speed, improved fuel efficiency and emissions, and reduced vibration and onboard noise levels when compared to a traditional inboard engine and shaft configuration.
“With 36 per cent better fuel economy this means that our IPS package has a much greater cruising range than a typical inboard engine,” says Björn Rönnvall, product manager marine leisure at Volvo Penta. “The IPS drive has been upgraded so it can handle the extra performance from the new D13 engine. We have found that there is a demand for greater durability with bigger boats, and the usage is higher. Increased low-end torque gives the vessel greater manoeuvrability at low speeds, and the compact configuration means there is more room on board for the luxuries that high-end yacht owners want. We’re working with more boatbuilders and are gaining a greater foothold in the large yacht market, so we see an opportunity for even more possibilities for customers in the future.”
We take a deeper look at the current market for pod drives in issue 181 of The Superyacht Report. Have you subscribed to The ‘new’ Superyacht Report? If you are a captain, owner, yacht manager, chief engineer, first officer, broker, designer, senior shipyard management, an owner’s representative, investor, or a family office, you are eligible for a complimentary annual subscription to the only superyacht industry publication worth reading. To apply for your VIP subscription, click here.
Technology will also be a key focus in this year’s The Superyacht Forum, taking place 13-16 November at Amsterdam RAI. Following a theme of A 10-year Blueprint for the Superyacht Market, the forum is set to be the networking highlight of the superyacht calendar, with 800 delegates and key decision makers from the technology, operations, owner and family office, project management, yard and construction sectors brought together to discuss the key factors affecting and influencing our industry. To book your place and for further information, click here.