Volvo buys Norwegian battery company

Volvo Penta has bought a 60 percent stake in Norway’s ZEM AS. The purpose of the purchase is to get batteries and knowledge about electrifying shipping.

Volvo Penta is expanding its capabilities, expertise and product portfolio by becoming a majority shareholder in ZEM AS, a Norwegian supplier of marine battery and electric drive solutions.

Volvo Penta has announced an exciting new acquisition of ZEM, a company with 12 years of experience in the market as a supplier of both marine battery systems and full electric powertrains, and a strong reputation in Norway, the world’s most advanced marine e-mobility market.

“As part of the Volvo Group’s extensive electric mobility initiatives, Volvo Penta has a solid technological foundation to draw on. However, marine electric mobility has a unique set of requirements,” explains Peter Granquist, technical director at Volvo Penta. “There are very specific considerations that are paramount with regard to the installation environment, safety, the use scenario itself, and the current lack of charging infrastructure.

These are complex issues that require innovative problem-solving and expertise. In addition, marine regulations are different from traffic regulations.

“We believe that bringing together different perspectives and experiences is key to the development and progress of marine electric mobility,” he continues. “The goal of this fantastic acquisition is to take another step forward in the development of electric mobility through the specialized maritime expertise and offerings that ZEM offers today.”

A solid foundation to build on ZEM’s core team has a background in electric mobility dating back to 1993. In 2009, ZEM was founded as a consultant to the marine and offshore sector for the development of battery and hybrid solutions. Today, the company supplies battery solutions for many different applications, from ferries, offshore supply vessels and high-speed passenger vessels to lifeboats and the fast-growing aquaculture sector. Among the pioneering solutions are the battery systems for the 2016 SMM Ship of the Year “Vision of the Fjords”, as well as the world’s fastest battery-powered catamaran “Ryger Elektra” and the first electric free-fall lifeboats “Viking Norsafe”.

Expanding capabilities, expertise and product range through acquisitions
Both companies have a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise. Volvo Penta will support ZEM’s growth through its established network, and ZEM’s expertise will help Volvo Penta accelerate project development. Together, the companies will expand and accelerate Volvo Penta’s range and capabilities in marine electric mobility.

“Joining forces with Volvo Penta marks the beginning of an exciting new phase for ZEM,” says Jan-Olaf Willums, founder of ZEM. “Our two companies share core values of safety and environmental protection, and we both have a Scandinavian pioneering spirit! Volvo Penta’s name and market reach will help propel us into new electric vehicle markets, supporting our growth.”

Volvo Penta’s transformation in electric mobility
To advance the Volvo Group’s sustainability program, Volvo Penta recently announced that it is redirecting additional resources to accelerate its product development. The goal is to achieve zero emissions through the use of renewable, fossil-free, electric and hybrid technologies, while continuing to offer efficient solutions for the marine industry.

“Volvo Penta’s vision is to become a leader in sustainable energy solutions, where we are transforming onshore and offshore toward a more sustainable society,” explains Helen Melquist, president of Volvo Penta. “With this acquisition, we are now able to offer powertrain solutions to marine customers through ZEM, as well as contribute to the broader reach of marine electric mobility through battery power. This is a step forward in our transformation that will also enable Volvo Penta to take advantage of new opportunities.”

Sustained thoughtful collaboration
ZEM will continue to operate under its current brand and under the leadership of Egil Molestad, ZEM’s long-time CEO and a recognized pioneer in the marine sector. The collaboration between Volvo Penta and ZEM is expected to evolve gradually.

“I look forward to working with Volvo Penta. It will enable us to grow both in technology, sales and after-sales support channels,” says Egil Mollestad.

While ZEM will continue to expand its battery and complete powertrain business, the two companies will eventually create complete complexes together.

“The transition from diesel technology to electrification will be a key element of our transformation, along with other new technological advances,” says Helen Mollquist. “The electrification process will be underpinned by close collaboration with stakeholders – customers, business partners and like-minded industry partners.”

The deal has no significant impact on the Volvo Group’s earnings or financial position.