There are currently 120 boat builders worldwide that offer models powered by the IPS. Leading the charge is the US with forty-four builders, and not surprisingly, the Italians are second with twenty-four builders; the remainder are spread out over all corners of the world stretching from China to Brazil. In our testing over the years, there have only been two occasions when we were unable to perform a scheduled test on an IPS boat. One was due to an improper factory installation and the other was due to the boat striking an underwater obstruction in the Throgs Neck area of western Long Island Sound in New York City. In this instance, the damage was to the props.
The IPS system and components as installed: engine, POD package, EVC control boxes and helm control components.
At the heart of the IPS system is actually not a component, it is software, (a.k.a. black boxes) and for a marine application, that is a good thing. The IPS system relies on many components talking to each other to achieve the desired result, better vessel control via a joystick and this can only happen through computer control. Having a computer and software at the heart of pod drives means that upgrades and modifications are as simple as installing new software.
The team at Volvo Penta tells us that the IPS600 is now running version EVC-E3 and that they are continually working on advancements. A benefit to maintenance in this case is that the diagnostics and remedy to most issues can be as easy as hooking up a laptop, or more accurately, a PDA device and program Volvo calls VODIA.
IPS pod component, upper unit and lower unit with cut-a-way showing the drive gear.
This system is more like the fly-by-wire flight controls of a modern fighter jet, utilizing electro-mechanical movement. The steering system atop the POD is connected to the help unit electrically, relaying the inputs from the helm to actuate the steering by turning the pod's lower unit. Some may think this is a complicated process with more possibilities to malfunction, but in our opinion, it actually simplifies the steering process by using less equipment, all of which is integrated into one system.
Item “A” is the driveshaft connection coming directly from the engine package. IPS can be installed with the engine connected directly to the pod gears or via a jackshaft to the pod gears, enabling the builder to install multiple IPS systems in an offset layout or the engines at a greater distance from the drives.
Item “B” is the raw water intake. The water is fed via the feeder tubs on the Upper unit directly to the engine cooling system. Item “C” is the integrated exhaust system which vents down through the body of the pod to exit aft of the propeller drive shaft in the lower unit.
IPS pod unit looking from the starboard side, complete upper and lower unit.
The lower unit itself is manufactured from an alloy comprising nickel, bronze, and aluminum. So far we have not seen that fouling due to marine growth is any more or less problematic than it is on than a standard inboard application. And referring to the maintenance manual, the first mention of corrosion only refers us to the inspection of the “space between IPS-Housing and clamping ring” during the 200 hour inspection.
Complete IPS power package with pod unit attached.
Item “A” in this image shows the shut off valve on the raw cooling water intake. We have noticed in most applications there is also a shut off valve on the opposite side (not shown) for the cooling water return. Item “B” is showing the transmission housing which also contains the hydraulic reverse gear with electric shift. The entire upper unit of the IPS pod is manufactured mainly from aluminum. Item “C” shows the oil dipstick, which is very easy to get to in each of the models we have tested, but obviously that depends on the builder's installation.
In looking at the maintenance schedule for the IPS system, we find nothing out of the ordinary, just checking filters and fluid levels. In fact, the 100-200 hour scheduled maintenance only lists two items, replacement of engine oil and oil filters / by-pass filters and an inspection of the primary fuel filter. To see a PDF of the maintenance schedule, download it here.
Since the IPS system is really the integration of many components and systems, all being controlled and monitored by the EVC (Electronic Vessel Control), the likelihood of major issues arising without a fair amount of advance warning is, in our opinion and experience, greatly reduced. And as for the fear that this is a new and complicated system that will only add to a boater’s maintenance issues and costs, again in our experience, it does not seem to be that way.
Perhaps the greatest concern of all among boaters when the IPS system was first introduced was the forward-facing propellers. Some people feared that they would be more susceptible to damage than aft-facing props and pods. Certainly many boaters have dinged and damaged their IPS props and Volvo Penta has even told us of cases in which the pods were torn off – but virtually all of these incidents were due to operator error and usually would have occurred as well with conventional inboard shafts and props. In fact, since the IPS pods usually draw slightly less water than do most inboard set-ups, it can be argued that IPS props are less prone to be damaged than conventional running gear.
You can compare the IPS600 as we have tested it on six models ranging from 40 feet up to 58 feet.
You can also download the complete PDF line drawings of the IPS system here.
Download the Volvo Penta Maintenance Schedule here.