Toronto’s new zero-emission battery-powered ferry

One of the shortest – and busiest – ferry runs in the world is going to be serviced by a zero emission battery-powered ferry charged by 100% renewable electricity sources.

PortsToronto announced that the Marilyn Bell I, which runs between the city shore and the Billy Bishop Airport on the Toronto Islands, will switch from biofuel to lithium-ion battery in 2020. The airport is named after the Canadian WW1 flying ace (72 victories), and the ferry after the first woman to swim Lake Ontario (1954).

This is the first 100 per cent lithium-ion powered ferry in service in Canada and it joins other Canadian ferries in leading the switch to electric and hybrid options:

Ferry takes passengers across 121 meter stretch

Toronto is the third largest city in North America and is served by two airports: the Pearson International on the outskirts of the city and the Billy Bishop (Toronto City Airport) sitting almost literally within the shadow of the iconic CN Tower.

Map of Toronto showing CN Tower and where all-electric ferry runsThe Toronto Islands create a natural harbour and the Marilyn Bell I brings airport passengers to and from the city every 15 minutes across a 121m / 400’ stretch of water at the ‘western gap’.

It also carries service vehicles for the 575 acres of public parkland and 600 permanent residents who share the islands with the airport. No personal cars are allowed on any of the 15 islands that make up the archipelago.

This full electrification is the second stage in cleaning up the ferry service. In 2018 Marilyn Bell I was converted from diesel to bio-fuel, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 20 tonnes in the past year. The full electrification is expected to reduce associated greenhouse gas emissions by 530 tonnes in total.

Battery-powered ferry uses 100% renewable electricity

Electricity for charging of the ferry will come from 100% renewable sources sourced through Bullfrog Power. Bullfrog purchases and resells renewable sourced electricity to thousands of homes and small businesses as well as some of Canada’s largest corporations.

The retrofitting of the ferry to all-electric battery power will be done by CANAL Marine, Concept Naval and E.Y.E. Marine Consultants.

“Converting the Billy Bishop Airport ferry to electric power is a clear indication of how serious we are in our commitment to the environment and maintaining balanced operations with the waterfront community in which we operate,” said Geoffrey Wilson, Chief Executive Officer, PortsToronto.

Canada’s Minister of Transport, former astronaut Marc Garneau, added that “The retrofitting of the Marilyn Bell I to electric power clearly demonstrates how we can build a clean and efficient transportation system, create good jobs and protect the environment.”

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