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

Electric Ferries

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.

Only the inner and mid harbour routes may be served with these electric ferries. Note: this is an older map of ferry services as the Stanley Bay route no longer exists

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.

Ownership

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.

Fullers Response

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

Funding

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.

Cycling Capacity

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.

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67 comments

  1. What is the likelihood AT give the contract to Explore or similar?
    Would they be able to run on the Devonport route?

    1. Devonport is an unregulated route so yes another operator can run a service on that route as anyone can on the Waiheke route. This is the argument that Fullers uses in saying they are not a monopoly. However as has been seen from previous attempts at on the Waiheke service Fullers will very aggressively assert their preference to be the sole operator.

  2. Awesome, love it, now rebuild the wharves on the central eastern side so we can make the most of them for short-hop journeys. Devonport to Kelly Tarltons? Hobsonville to St Heliers? Sydney makes such better use of their harbour than we do of ours.

    1. Yea the water is very much underdone in Auckland.

      Auckland has a harbour with zero public transport ferries on it. At one point it had about 10.

      1. I really wish we could have a strategic review on our ferries that wasn’t limited to serving existing and established ferry routes.

        Appreciate we don’t have deepwater everywhere but if there’s a situation where we can somehow add connectivity to Tat Pen, Glendowie or St Heliers then we might well see a decent explosion in usage and the type of trips being taken.

        1. I’ve commented before on a potential inner harbour service – linking all the inner harbour stops together and running in both directions.

          Not a new area being serviced but then i am not sure there are actually that many viable options given water depth and competition with bus times?

        2. The current services all focus on getting to and from the CBD, and yeah, making that time competitive with land transport may not stack up wll, however what if we used the harbour to do cross town routes too? I can stand at the end of Te Atatu and SEE West Harbour, Beach Haven, Birkenhead. Gotta be faster than the multiple buses I’d need to take to get from Te Atatu to the Shore now.

        3. The bad news is that all buses on that part of the Shore are also focused on getting you to the CBD. But yeah that can be fixed.

        4. I have heard that when the tides out, Te Atatu doesn’t have enough water and/or something about the location of the wharf being problematic.

          Totally agree on cross-harbour routes, probably best served via harbour circuits in either direction.

        5. KLK re Te Atatu. The Whau river, upto the motorway bridge, should be do able, If west harbour is. Maybe modest dredging is needed. That would interface nicely with the upcoming bus way.

    1. Have a look at developments along the Pahurehure inlet and Drury creek.
      Low tide nagativable water alongside Park Estate developments as well as a new recreatational wharf at Drury. Launch style service could connect up with Weymouth, Wattle Downs and points further afield. Hingata Bridge could be a problem. Bigger population here than Waiuku. Could be a future option.

    2. The trouble is that it is very shallow in places and the waves can come up big and fast without any warning

    1. Swapping batteries at the scale required to power a ferry is going to be a massive exercise, and involve removing and replacing a huge amount of weight from an inspected vessel every time it needs a charge.

      Can’t see Maritime NZ going for it tbh.

  3. Does anybody think this is the cheapest way to reduce carbon emissions in New Zealand?
    So long as we all realise this is about publicity and show and not about responding to ongoing climate change then they can knock themselves out. But think about opportunity cost for a moment and you will see this means CO emissions will end up higher than they could have been.

      1. Seriously? What about spending the money on:
        getting people out of their car onto a diesel bus on a new busway;
        onto an existing electric train; onto a new cycleway;
        onto a convenient walkway somewhere.
        Perhaps they could spend a similar amount to reduce the number of ruminants that are raised to be slaughtered.
        You know actually address one of the areas where emissions can be reduced cheaply rather than looking for high cost ways just to get publicity.

        1. I assumed that you were going to say something like ban cars. But I take it that would ruffle your feathers right?

          Ok. How do you spend 27 million dollars to stop people driving? Advertising? How many meters of Bus way would this buy? 100 meters?

          27 million dollars in Auckland will probably provide about 2 km of shared path? That is hopeless.

          Land is being converted to forests all over the show and eating habits are changing. Do you really think that the govt competing with the private sector is a good idea there? Don’t worry everyone will be vegan like you in the near future.

          I typically hate the endless ev talk. This is different, as per the article the ferries massively over contribute to emissions. These short connections have a clear eazy path to emit far less carbon and be substantially less reliant on imported dirty diesel. On top of that moving things by boat is fundamentally very efficient, Auckland is town with two harbours thats early history was framed around boats. It’s incredibly likely that boats are going a massive part of a post oil world.

          You want virtue signaling nonsense; https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/travel/2022/04/ocean-flyer-to-launch-nz-operations-with-25-regent-seagliders-in-2025.amp.html

        2. Turbinia.

          High profile, high status projects and stunts can turn around the perception of a technology.

          The ferries might not seriously reduce emissions on their own, but could help shift and accommodate e-bikes and EVs or encourage mode shift elsewhere. Range anxiety is still a thing.

        3. Talking about opportunity cost…I’m sure the $27m funding for these ferries could be shaved out of some roading budget somewhere without too much pain.

        4. They don’t need to ban cars or stop people driving. They just need to spend the scarce funds in a way that has the biggest impact on carbon. Maybe that means building a power line so Fontera stops burning coal to dry milk. But maybe it is a few kilometres of bike lane. But we can all be fairly sure it isn’t building boats to carry the same number of people as now just to replace a diesel engine with some dodgy batteries. Seriously I would be more likely to drive rather than get on a boat like that.

        5. No. Banning people driving cars would be far more impact on carbon emissions than 2 electric ferry. You not liking that does not make it false, cars alone are 30% of Aucklands emissions.

          Fonnterra could stop drying milk instead, and the land could be converted to something plant based.

          Every drop of finite diesel cost more than last, this sort of thing is going to happen. What on earth makes you think this is dodgy?

        6. Ban driving in Auckland and a lot of people would move somewhere else where they would then have to drive for every single trip. We don’t live in a society where a few people make decisions for everyone else nor do we want to.

          You can get on a boat loaded with hot lithium batteries if you want to, but on a boat you can’t stop and run away when it catches fire.

        7. “High profile, high status projects and stunts can turn around the perception of a technology.” Jakey you have no reason at all to believe that will occur here. More likely is it will create moral hazard. Dozens of people might figure that the government has spent millions on climate change so they dont have to worry and can use their car instead of the bus.

        8. Miffy. It does not matter, banning cars would address climate change more effectively than building two electric ferries. Is that not what you want?

          Cars are going to effectively ban themselves, in the near future by costing so much to run.

          You are worried about lithium batteries on medium sized boat running a hundred meters from shore of all places? Lol.

    1. The opportunity cost to electrifying ferries is basically zero.

      Yes there are lots of other things the government could be doing to reduce the country’s emissions. But the reasons those things aren’t being done have nothing to do with money. Not having the budget is just a convenient excuse to avoid doing things that would be politically unpopular. If the government didn’t spend this money on electric ferries then the money just wouldn’t get spent. Hence no opportunity cost.

    2. I guess we should have just bought new diesels instead right. Why even bother getting out of bed in the morning? /sarc

    3. Considering new ferries will be needed anyway you’d have to deduct that cost from the total. Probably looking at around $5m difference.

  4. I thought they would have picked the most effective propulsion and I do not think Hamilton jet is one of it.

    Looking at the image and they could have put a solar power panels on top of the boat to keep the batteries charged.

    At least it is a step in the right direction to reduce the emission.

    1. How far down the list of measures to combat climate change do you think boat building might be? Last? Second to last? Third to last?

      1. No magic bullet is going to do that job, but I agree we should start with big calibers.

        Worldwide freight shipping, dependence on global supply chains, opportunities for NZ coastal shipping to take freight off the road, the filthy sulphurous bunker fuels still in use…

      2. Is it really a list of measures that we work down, at this stage – or is it a fairly horizontal array of actions that we have take fairly simultaneously? Less like building a house and more like putting out a tremendous forest fire…

    2. I doubt in the extreme that you would get any meaningful amount of solar power to drive a ferry from rooftop solar panels.

      1. Actually doesn’t look like it, but they say it’s suitable for ferry:
        https://www.hamiltonjet.com/ferry
        Ferry operators can have absolute confidence that our waterjets represent the pinnacle of all-round efficiency, agile manoeuvrability and durability.

        “Our pump dynamics and high cavitation margins, coupled with superior thrust margins and advanced low loss steering mean swift turnarounds, high payload capability and course stability.”

      2. Reading their ferry brochure, they seem very reliable and suitable:
        The Pine Harbour commuter ferry
        service operates in the inner harbour
        of Auckland, New Zealand.
        ‘Clipper II’ has twin HJ364 waterjets,
        making it fast and efficient. It is
        capable of a top speed of over 40
        knots, but to remain on schedule,
        it only needs to maintain 26 knots
        at a mere 65% MCR. The result
        is extremely economical fuel
        consumption. Meanwhile low demand
        on the vessel’s engines has improved
        reliability and reduced the need for
        maintenance.
        At the other end of the run, the tight
        docking and manoeuvring in Pine
        Harbour is easily handled by the
        vessel’s two crew members.

  5. Great news! I expect the government and builders are hoping to export these as well. Not much data yet but my guess is that battery will be about 800 kWh, which would make the energy consumption 0.1 kWh/person-km at full occupancy, similar to a single-occupant EV (e.g. Tesla). Probably the fast charger (Wellington is planning for 1 MW) will be at one location only so the charges must squeeze into the sailing schedule.

    1. Ok so a 800 KWH battery so 6 or 7 hours on a 150 kW charger. I assume that a normal 440 volt supply would be required. If more than 40 kilometres are needed per day then fast charging between trips might be required maybe something like a 500 kW charger. I expect this requires a higher voltage supply 1100 volts. Bigger cables more expense.

  6. Another reason to go electric is to make travelling by ferry a much more pleasant experience by eliminating the noise and diesel smell.
    Carbon fibre construction means a lighter weight and less water displaced so more energy efficient.
    The wellington electric ferry hull has a more hydrodynamically efficient profile than what is possible with traditional power. This also helps with efficiency.
    Much like an electric car or bus, these ferries will have a similar capital cost and lower operating cost. They don’t rely on foreign oil imports. In my opinion they’re a no brainer

  7. Good news following on from the successful commissioning of Wellington Ika Rere. I have just checked my shipping app and it tells me it has made three return trips to Days Bay already today. Anyway New Zealand is building electric boat building skills. I haven’t heard any whining from National or Act so presumably boats are okay but you could imagine some if the 27 million was for Kiwirail to build battery powered EMU, to run between Hamilton and Auckland. It would become experimental technology for an underpreforming slow train.

    1. It could be they don’t hinder their road trips like the Trains do ? , and possibly when they are flying across the water they may think they are marine creatures .

      1. No they aren’t, they are being built in Auckland by McMullen & Wing, the new Fullers360 hybrid is being built by Q-West in Whanganui.

  8. Same speed that lousy reporting, Fullers last three new ferries Tōrea, Kororā and Te Kotuku have a service speed of 26 knots, there top speed of 30 knots. The Sealink Clippers are even faster, they are capable of 40 knots. Having a higher speed enables the vessels to make up for time delays and keep to schedule.

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