Lake Ontario mainland to Amherst Island and Wolfe Island
New all electric ferries that will reduce greenhouse emissions by 1,357 cars (7.4 million kg of CO2/year) are expected to start operating in early 2020 for Amherst Island and a year later for Wolfe Island. The Province of Ontario is investing approximately $94 million and the Government of Canada is contributing up to a maximum of $31 million towards building the new ferries.
Existing ferries transport about 1.2 million passengers and 545,000 cars each year from Kingston to the islands near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. The new ferries – one 98m and the other 68m – match the capacity and speed of the existing diesel burning ships. The larger of the two will run from Kingston to Wolfe Island, carrying up to 400 people and 75 cars, the smaller Amherst Island model carrying 300 and 42. Both have top speeds of 12 knots.
Charging of electric ferries a challenge
One of the most challenging aspects of building electric ferries is not the actual boat itself, but how it is charged. The ferries will be built by the Damen company of the Netherlands, and their contract includes an automated mooring and charging system in which the vessels are automatically connected to the shore power grid on landing.
Back in 2014 one of Norway’s major ferry companies, Norled, announced the world’s first fully electric battery-powered car ferry. Its competitor Fjord 1 – the largest ferry operator in Norway – has also joined the electric revolution with not only ferries but also cruise ships visiting the country’s famous Fjords.
In China an all-electric cargo ship ironically transports coal to power generating stations. While that may not seem like progress, cargo ships and cruise ships are some of the biggest contributors to atmospheric carbon.
They burn the lowest grades of dirty diesel bunker fuel, and some studies have shown “only 15 cargo ships can produce the same amount of pollution as all of the cars in the world.“
One of the solutions is a combination solar panel/sail from Japan’s Eco Marine Power (EMP) now being tested on cargo ships.
And there is the majestic ship Tûranor Planet Solar, which circumnavigated the globe on nothing but sun power.
What better place to welcome all-electric non-emitting ferries than the Great Lakes, the planet’s largest source of fresh water.
Image: Damen. Photo of a 58m Damen ferry operating in Turkey.