Passenger ferries are going electric
Ships are the latest mode of transportation to see electric upgrades as the maritime industry faces increased pressure to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with fossil-fuel propulsion.
The big picture: Passenger ferries are ideal for electric propulsion using current battery technology, which can reduce water and air pollution while providing a quiet, vibration-free trip. Short routes with frequent stops along populated shorelines offer ample opportunities to charge the battery packs.
Where it stands: Globally, there were 185 battery-powered vessels operating or scheduled for delivery in 2018, 58 of which were passenger ferries.
Background: Norway introduced the first all-electric ferry, named the MF Ampere, in 2015, to shuttle passengers between villages in the fjords.
- Since then, the MF Ampere has cut emissions by 95% and operational costs by 80% compared with fuel driven ferries. Norway continues to lead in this area and expects to have 60 hybrid and all-electric ferries operational by 2023 — part of the country's plans to be carbon-neutral by 2030.
- To transport 7 million passengers and 2 million cars annually, Sweden introduced 2 electric ferries that are said to have reduced CO2 emissions by over 28,000 tons per year.
What's new: The Maid of the Mist Corporation has announced that it will launch 2 all-electric, zero-emission boats in September on the U.S. side of Niagara Falls — the first domestically built all-electric boats used for tourists in the U.S.
- The catamaran-type boats, which will replace diesel-engine models, complement the Niagara region's $70 million revitalization efforts to enhance popular tourist areas and align with the goal of New York's clean energy plan to be carbon-free by 2040.
- The new vessels will carry up to 520 passengers each, powered by lithium-ion battery packs under their hulls that will recharge to 80% of capacity during the 7 minutes they spend at the port.
What to watch: With battery costs declining, expect more new and converted all-electric passenger ferries to operate across the U.S.
- Washington State Ferries will introduce a 150-passenger hybrid ferry in Puget Sound later this year that runs on both diesel and battery power, using up to 60% less fuel than diesel counterparts.
- Also this year, New York City plans to introduce a 150-person ferry to shuttle commuters across the East River, from Brooklyn to Manhattan.