Some ferry good news yesterday with the government announcing funding to build two electric ferries for Auckland.
Auckland harbour ferries are set to get quieter, cleaner and greener, thanks to two new fully-electric ferries for commuters and sightseers to travel on, Minister for Energy and Resources Dr Megan Woods announced today.
Auckland Transport will operate the two electric fast ferries across all major inner and mid-harbour services, and the new ferries will provide a pathway for further ferry electrification in the future.
“Today’s ferries contribute about 20% of Auckland’s public transport emissions. These electric ferries promise to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with each electric ferry displacing approximately 1000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually.
“This project will be a major boost to the rapidly developing maritime clean technology sector in New Zealand and will further upskill the maritime transport sector in New Zealand. This is a boost for our climate goals and our economy, which is especially vital as we continue our economic recovery from Covid-19.
“This Government is committed to supporting low-emission transport options. We’ve invested significantly in on-road electric vehicles and have pledged to decarbonise the public transport bus fleet.
“Electrifying water transport is a natural next step in making public transport cleaner.
“I’m looking forward to boarding one of Auckland’s first electric ferries once they hit the harbour,” Megan Woods said.
The Auckland ferry project is a collaboration between the Government, Auckland Transport, EV Maritime and boat builders McMullen & Wing.
The ferries are expected to launch in 2024.
About the project
- Auckland Transport receives a $27 million grant funding from the Government to pay approximately 75% of the costs of constructing two new electric ferries.
- Auckland Transport will own and operate the two electric ferries
- The funding comes from the Infrastructure Reference Group’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
- The ferries have propulsion and control technologies from Hamilton Jet – a leading NZ exporter and innovator in marine propulsion systems.
- Top speed of 25 knots (on par with today’s diesel ferries) with a range of 40km
There are a couple of thoughts I’ve had about aspects about this announcement
Getting electric ferries is important because as noted above, ferries are currently and outsized source of emissions, contributing about 20% of all public transport emissions in Auckland. That’s much higher than their share of usage with only around 6% of all PT trips being on them.
The big challenge will be the range of around 40km, which might not seem like much but it’s worth considering that some routes, like Bayswater, are fairly short at less than 2.5km. Based on the announcement that these will operate on the inner and mid-harbour routes, the longest individual route is around 15.5km (Half Moon Bay). Combined with fast charging capability which AT is also exploring, these should be able to perform pretty well.
As well as reduced emissions, the other big benefit of electric ferries is it should help make them much cheaper to operate. This could be crucial in allowing for more ferry services to be run.
It’s notable that it Auckland Transport will be the ultimate owner of these vessels. This suggests we’re heading to a future where ferries are treated much more like our trains where AT own them but they are operated by a separate company. That could be important as it would make it easier for AT to bring in new operators, thereby reducing the dominance of Fullers.
Late last year Fullers announced they are also building a lower emission ferry but instead of being fully electric like the two above, they would be hybrids that also had a diesel engine for backup. The Herald presented this as them crashing the government’s announcement but ultimately we need a lot more low-emissions ferries and there needs to be solutions for longer distance routes so it’s hard to see it as a bad thing
One of the odd things about the announcement is that the government’s share of the funding isn’t coming as part of their emissions reduction budgets but from their COVID response fund.
One of the challenges in recent years has been that many ferries have struggled with the number of bikes people want to get across the harbour.
Images from the maker of these electric ferries, EV Marine, shows the ferries will have space for bikes but will it be enough?
Overall this seems a ferry good outcome for Auckland to get us started on the journey to fully electric ferries on all routes.