Overview of the new Forward Drive from Volvo Penta
Reviews and test drives

Overview of the new Forward Drive from Volvo Penta

What are the weaknesses of Swedish innovation?

Ten years ago, Volvo Penta introduced the IPS floor loudspeaker. Without an excessive pietà, it was a revolution in the propulsion systems of boats and yachts. Since many years have passed since the introduction of IPS, let's not dwell on the features of this system, but immediately introduce you to the latest innovation of the Swedish company. Specialists from Volvo Penta call it a «front drive» - Forward Drive or FWD for short. The system was presented in mid-February at the Miami International Boat Show 2015.

It's basically a regular Duoprop twin-screw loudspeaker, with the propellers turned forward as the boat progresses. Exhaust fumes go back through the socket.

«Pulling, not pushing», is the principle behind the Volvo Penta FWD.

But will it be as successful as the bottom speakers, which are mounted on ¾ of the boat's hull length? The company says it has achieved a reduction in noise, vibration and environmental damage. Are there any shortcomings? With all the declared innovation of such a drive, questions arise as to its practicality. And, as a consequence, a bright future.

Firstly, tilting the speaker will not allow you to get close to shore as the screws are poorly protected from damage in contact with the ground. Secondly, when the rudder is moved abruptly and the boat is hinged, the screws of a conventional column go deeper into the water, providing more torque, and on the FWD they come out to the surface, catching up with the air. As a result, traction is dramatically reduced. Third, unlike IPS bottom speakers, FWD screws work at the transom, where boats with transverse edanes or newer systems like Beneteau's AirStep have the highest aeration of water flow, resulting in lower efficiency and cavitation.

And one last point that's questionable. The main advantage of the IPS system is the boat's high maneuverability. But it is achieved only with a twin engine propulsion system and more than 80% of motor yachts are equipped with two engines with bottom columns. And two FWD loudspeakers, raised to match the deadrise angle on the transom and positioned close to each other, are unable to provide such angles of rotation. Outboard engine manufacturers have already faced this problem by introducing joysticks to manoeuvre in tight spaces. But there's a screw at the back, and its outreach relative to the axis of rotation of the speaker is much smaller. And here are the Duoprop twin screws!

Among the first boats on which Volvo Penta tested the new system were Regal 2100 Surf, Regal 22 Fasdeck FSX and Four Winns TS222. The first models equipped with FWD will go on sale in 2015.

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