Orca-friendly, all-electric car ferry – Washington state is poised to embark on an experiment in electric car ferries that could eventually transform the largest ferry fleet in the nation. And little Skagit County is leading the way, as it moves to replace its old diesel-powered Guemes Island ferry with a battery-powered, zero emissions model.
That would make the run between Anacortes and the island the nation’s first all-electric car ferry operating with batteries, and one of the first in the world.
Ditching diesel ferries in favor of all-electric or hybrid vessels would have far-reaching benefits, proponents say, including cleaner air and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. And the quieter electric engines would reduce underwater noise, which scientists now recognize as a key threat to the survival of endangered killer whales, salmon and other marine wildlife.
“There’s just so many benefits from this,” said Skagit County Commissioner Ken Dahlstedt, who is leading the charge on the Guemes Island ferry.
Inspired by Norway’s recent embrace of electric ferries, Dahlstedt saw an opportunity to try out the technology in his county, which was in the market for a new ferry. The 38-year-old diesel clunker that now plies the route is on its last legs, and maintenance costs have become prohibitive.
Norwegian ferry operator The Fjords has announced it is building a fully electric ferry – Future of the Fjords – which will launch in April next year.
The 42m long carbon fibre vessel will be a sistership to Vision of the Fjords, a diesel-electric hybrid ferry launched last year. Vision of the Fjords is currently under construction at Norwegian shipbuilder Brodene Aa, which also built its predecessor.
The Fjords chief executive Rolf Sandvik said: “Vision of the Fjords switches from diesel to electric power when entering the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Nærøyfjord. It represented an important step forward on our journey to transform tourism in this delicate natural wonderland, but this new ship is, quite simply, our dream come true. It marks the fulfilment of a vision.”
The new DNV GL-classed ferry will be propelled by two 300kW electric motors, enabling cruising speeds of 16 knots along the fjord route between Flåm and Gudvangen.