U.S. shipbuilding company Vigor has selected ABB to supply the hybrid-electric propulsion and energy storage systems for the newest additions to the Washington State Ferry fleet, setting the largest U.S. ferry system on course to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel use.
The new Olympic Class ferries, each with a capacity of 144 cars and 1,500 passengers, with the planned addition of charging capability at terminals, would reduce fuel consumption by up to 95%. Upon delivery in 2024, the initial vessel of the series will be the first newbuild in Washington State Ferry’s fleet to feature hybrid-electric propulsion and a high capacity energy storage system. The new vessels will be able to fully operate on battery power and will have the capability to revert to hybrid mode, if required.
Jay Hebert, Vice President – Marine Fabrication, Vigor, said the project is prompted by the commitment of Washington Governor Jay Inslee, the state legislature and Washington State Ferries to replace aging ferries with clean technology in alignment with the state’s commitment to environmental stewardship. The 2019 Legislature approved initial funding for the first of the new vessels, to be built at Vigor’s Harbor Island shipyard in Seattle.
“This landmark project supports Washington State’s goal for 2050 to reduce emissions by 57.5% below the emissions level in 2019, utilizing a hybrid and electric propulsion solution that is space-efficient, easy to install and flexible in operation,” Herbert said.
Leveraging ABB’s Onboard DC Grid power distribution system and proven drive technology, the new ferry design will optimize energy use, whether drawing on main engine power, battery power or a combination of the two. The battery power can also extend zero-emissions capability along the supply chain by using renewables and hydroelectric power.
“Moving toward a dramatically reduced-emission future relies on technologies that meet the environmental and cost needs of today – and offer flexibility to integrate future energy sources in the years ahead,” said Juha Koskela, Managing Director, ABB Marine & Ports. “ABB is delighted to support this milestone project demonstrating the way that electric, digital and connected solutions can deliver shipping’s zero-emission future.”
Washington State Ferries is the largest ferry system in the U.S. By 2040, the Washington Ferry System plan is to replace 13 existing diesel ferries with hybrid-electric newbuilds and to convert six other ferries to plug-in hybrid, with recharging capacity installed at many ferry terminals. All hybrid vessels will be capable of charging at the terminal, and some of the vessels will be capable of operating in fully electric mode on shorter routes. With the addition of newer-built, clean energy ferries to the fleet, fuel consumption is projected at 9.5 million gallons in 2040, compared to 19 million gallons in 2018, with CO2 emissions expected to fall below 2050 reduction targets by 2034.