Aug 10, 2023 - Transit

Charging station underway for electric tugboats at port of San Diego

A rendering shows two electric tugboats sitting in a harbor connected to a charging station made of shipping containers and a solar panel roof with a large ship and cranes in the background at the Port of San Diego.

A rendering of the eWolf electric tugboats charging at a port. Photo: Courtesy of Crowley.

San Diego is expected to become home to the nation's first zero-emissions, all-electric tugboat early next year.

Why it matters: The move marks a major environmental milestone for the maritime industry that's searching for green fuels.

Driving the news: The Port and Crowley, a logistics, marine and energy solutions company, broke ground Wednesday on the shoreside charging station that will provide clean energy for the eWolf tugboat using a mix of solar and electric grid power.

  • Construction will start in the next few weeks.

By the numbers: The eWolf will replace Crowley's diesel power boat that consumes 30,000 gallons of diesel annually. That's about three times the volume in a tanker truck you see fueling gas stations.

According to Crowley in consultation with the EPA, this tug and the station will:

  • Reduce the equivalent of 7.6 million miles driven by cars every year;
  • Decrease the amount of coal burned by 3.5 million pounds;
  • Save 350,000 gallons of gas.
A rendering of a zero-emissions, electric tugboat that's grey and white sitting on water.
A rendering of the eWolf electric tugboat. Photo: Courtesy of Crowley.

What they're saying: These developments will have real world impacts for families in San Diego's portside communities like Barrio Logan and National City, where residents breathe more diesel pollution than 90% of Californians, environmental justice advocate Diane Takvorian said at the event, representing the California Air Resources Board.

  • Children in these neighborhoods also have three to five times more asthma hospitalizations than the county average, Takvorian noted.

What's next: San Diego Gas & Electric is assessing the electrical capacity at the Port to determine what infrastructure upgrades are needed to allow the tugboat to plug into the grid and accommodate charging for future electric vessels and vehicles.

  • That could mean upgrading transformers in substations or extending power lines.

Crowley is working to electrify more of its fleet and aims to bring similar technology to other ports along the West Coast, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that Crowley is aiming to electrify more of its fleet, not its entire fleet.


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