Ferry system electrification

Graphic of a ferry with a corded plug coming out of itWashington State Ferries burns more than 18 million gallons of diesel fuel a year, making the system Washington state’s largest consumer. Within the state transportation system, ferries generate the most carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. WSF is working on several projects to meet the goals of Executive Order 18-01 (pdf 82 kb), which directs WSF to move toward a zero emissions fleet. 

The 2040 Long Range Plan, which WSF delivered to the Legislature in January 2019, recommends short-, medium- and long-term actions for WSF to pursue and focuses on a set of investments and service enhancements to be implemented over 20 years. One of the key recommendations is to move toward a “greener” ferry fleet with the goal of a reliable fleet that has a lighter footprint on the environment and outperforms carbon dioxide reduction targets.

New vessels

We have introduced four new vessels into the fleet since 2014. All are 144-car Olympic Class ferries. However, the new vessel construction program has not kept up with the needs of our aging fleet. Over half of the WSF fleet, 11 of 21 vessels, are over 30 years old. These ferries are approaching the end of their service lives and must be replaced with newer ones in the coming years. WSF will begin construction of the first hybrid-electric Olympic Class ferry in summer 2021 and it’s expected to enter service in early-2024. We must keep building additional hybrid-electric ferries to maintain reliable service. These greener ferries have the added benefit of reducing nitric oxide emissions by 146 metric tons/year and CO2 emissions by 16,340 metric tons/yr, reducing operating costs, virtually eliminating engine noise and vibration, and reducing maintenance costs.

Jumbo Mark II hybrid-electric propulsion conversion

WSF is moving forward with converting the three Jumbo Mark II class ferries, the largest in the fleet, from diesel to hybrid-electric propulsion. In October 2019, the trustee administering the nationwide federal Volkswagen settlement approved up to $35 million to support retrofitting the first of the ferries from diesel to electric power. Planning and design will continue through 2020 and construction of the first Jumbo Mark II conversion will begin in late-2021. In addition to cost savings and reduced maintenance costs, converting the Jumbo Mark IIs will reduce carbon emissions by 48,565 metric tons/year – the equivalent of taking more than 10,000 cars off the road.

System-wide electrification plan

WSF is developing a system-wide electrification plan that expands on the 2040 Long Range Plan to evaluate alternatives and propose an efficient strategy for using hybrid electric vessels throughout the system. The plan will be delivered to the legislature in September 2020.

Contact

Hadley Rodero
Hadley.Rodero@wsdot.wa.gov
(206) 470-0524