Washington State Ferries is in the process of converting three of it's ferries from diesel to hybrid electric power! The three ferries are the Puyallup, the Tacoma & the Wenatchee - all of which are Jumbo Class II boats. A WA State Ferry spokesperson has described the ferries as "gas hogs". This upgrade will not only be cost-saving but also environmentally friendly. In the next few years, at least one ferry will have been fully converted to electric. Right now, WSF is evaluating the process, including how and where to charge the massive boats.
The Puyallup, Tacoma & Wenatchee were chosen to be first for the conversion
out of the fleet's 22 boats because they are the largest, coming in at 460 ft! Together, they consume 26% of the fuel and are the largest emitters of carbon emissions. Also, they are all around 20 years old. Converting the boats to hybrid technology would result in a 90% reduction in full consumption and emissions per vessel and would save approximately $14 million per year!
The conversion to hybrid would be completed by installing lithium-ion battery banks below the deck of the boats and the propulsion would be converted to electric. Just in case they are needed, backup diesel generations would be kept on board.
This exciting upgrade does not come without a hefty price tag, though. It is estimated that the conversion to hybrid electric would cost $35 million per boat. However, with the $14 million/year in savings, the upgrade would pay for itself in a matter of a few years. In addition, some of the money to upgrade the ferries could come from the federal Volkswagen settlement, which found that VW had cheated on emissions tests for many of it's vehicles. WA state will be receiving $112.7 from the settlement and the state is planning to re-invest that money to improve air pollution from transportation.
Within five years, we hope to see 1 to 3 of these ferries converted to hybrid power!