Climate Solutions: Converting our Steamship fleet




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Suquamish Ferry, Washington State DOT, Ferries Division. — Courtesy Washington State Ferries

Ferry fuel makes up 11 percent of our Island’s transportation energy use; 1,290,723 gallons of diesel fuel were used in 2018. We need to transition to a cleaner way to travel. Scandinavia and Washington State are leading the way in transitioning to electric and hybrid ferries.

Washington State has the largest ferry system in the U.S., with 21 vessels, 20 terminals, and 24 million passengers. It is redesigning its vessels to convert them to a hybrid-electric propulsion type without disrupting structural components.  The ferries will operate on battery power during crossings, and can revert to a hybrid, diesel-electric propulsion if required. Battery recharging will occur dockside at the terminals during loading procedures. The goal is to have 90 percent be plug-in hybrid by 2040. The conversion of the first boat will cost $40,000,000 and will begin this year.

Denmark has the largest fully electric ferry, “E-Ferry Ellen,” launched in 2019. The ship can carry 30 cars, 200 passengers, and go 22 nautical miles. (Our “Island Home” can carry 60 cars, 999 passengers, and goes about eight nautical miles on the Vineyard Haven route.)

The Ellen is powered by a battery system with a capacity of 4.3 MWh.