Passenger ferries are going electric
An all-electric, zero-emission ferry in Lorient, France. Photo: Jean-Sebastien Evrard/AFP/Getty Images
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.