Volvo Penta and Groupe Beneteau are taking significant strides in understanding the evolving needs and behaviors of leisure boaters, particularly as comfort emerges as a pivotal factor in the transition to sustainable boating. Through extensive testing and research into hybrid-electric solutions, the companies are shedding light on the crucial role comfort and experience play in the adoption of sustainable solutions.
In a collaborative effort, Volvo Penta and Groupe Beneteau have completed the second phase of their study focused on identifying key drivers that will propel the boating industry towards sustainable solutions. This research primarily centred on the viability of hybrid-electric solutions, aiming to address the multi-faceted challenges of the future of boating.
In 2023, the companies engaged 120 boaters in a customized trial, testing a hybrid-electric leisure boat concept. The trial provided invaluable feedback, shaping the future of on-water experiences for both Volvo Penta and Groupe Beneteau. The participants, spanning from beginners to seasoned boaters, included stakeholders from across the leisure boating segment.
The trials took place at Volvo Penta’s Krossholmen facility in Sweden in June and the Cannes International Yachting Festival in France in September. The diverse range of participants, representing various boat types and user demographics, allowed for a comprehensive understanding of market readiness and user preferences.
Comfort as the Catalyst
Overall, the study incorporated 240 hours of real-world trials, offering precise insights into the market’s readiness for hybrid-electric experiences. Johan Inden, President of the Marine Business Unit at Volvo Penta, emphasized, “What we learned from this demo is that we can leverage unique technology features, with comfort in mind, as an enabler towards choosing more sustainable boating solutions.”
The trial’s findings indicated that users responded most positively to the overall elevated experience, with lower emissions during electric cruising also emerging as a significant motivator. In fact, silent cruising, increased precision and control, and seamless onboard experience were highlighted as top-rated aspects of the new technology.
Over 38% of participants noted that improved comfort was the most-liked aspect of the hybrid-electric experience. The exciting new experience garnered an average score of 4.3 out of 5, with 53% giving it the maximum score of 5.
Changing Boater Behavior
An impressive 87% of participants believed that the concept could change how they approach boating. Moreover, 46% expressed an inclination towards more low-speed cruising, and 31% considered staying more nights off the grid (‘silent nights’) and feeling more comfortable without disturbing fellow boaters.
Integrated System and Infrastructure
The trial emphasized the importance of an integrated system. Participants appreciated features such as Joystick Docking in electric mode, seamless system integration, lower sound levels, and enhanced acceleration and performance.
Approximately half of the respondents already had access to charging infrastructure at their home docks, with another quarter indicating various setups in place. Enjoying zero emissions at low-speed cruising scored an impressive average of 4.5 out of 5, with 45% giving it the maximum score of 5.
Overall, the willingness to embrace change was evident, with over three-quarters (76%) stating that they are ‘Very Likely’ or ‘Likely’ to consider a hybrid-electric system for their next boat purchase.
Shaping the Future
The comprehensive findings of this research will be presented in an upcoming webinar by leadership from both companies. Overall, the trials have provided crucial insights that will shape ongoing project development. The emphasis on bespoke solutions tailored to individual boaters’ needs and usage patterns underscores the industry’s collective effort towards a sustainable boating future.
Erik Stromberg, Vice President of Power & Motor Yacht Development at Groupe Beneteau, stated, “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.”
Finally, as Volvo Penta and Groupe Beneteau continue to work collectively and share their knowledge, the future of leisure boating appears to be steering towards sustainable and experiential solutions.
(Volvo Penta and Groupe Beneteau: Shaping the Future of Sustainable Boating Through Customer Experience – barchemagazine.com – November 2023)