BC Ferries president and CEO Mark Collins touted the purchase of six new hybrid-electric vessels at BC Ferries annual general meeting (Aug. 19).
The new Island Class vessels are expected to be in service by 2022 along Gulf Island routes servicing Texada Island, Alert Bay, Sointula, Quadra Island and Gabriola Island. Four of the vessels have already arrived in B.C.
For the time being, the vessels will use both electric power and fuel. Collins said BC Ferries is working with BC Hydro and the federal government to create on-shore charging stations for the vessels to make them fully electric. The charging stations are expected to cost $150 million to complete.
Collins said it will take roughly four years to completely electrify the vessels. The vessels themselves are ready to operate on electricity alone and BC Hydro has the generation capacity to power them, but challenges will come in getting the power down to the shore where it’s needed.
BC Ferries plans to purchase six more Island Class vessels by 2032, which Collins hopes will also be fully electric. If everything goes according to plan, BC Ferries will have 12-14 electric ferries in about 10 years’ time, accounting for nearly half of their 35 vessel fleet.
The ‘biggest prize’ for BC Ferries would be electrifying their major routes, Collins said. The major vessels that connect Vancouver Island to the Lower Mainland account for 20 per cent of BC Ferries’ fuel consumption. Five of BC Ferries major vessels need to be replaced by 2030 though it’s unlikely those vessels will be electric.
Collins said a 200-megawatt hour battery would be required to operate a major vessel, but the biggest battery on the market today offers only 12-megawatt hours. If battery technology advances enough to power major vessels, BC Ferries will have to work with BC Hydro to ensure that there is enough electricity generation to keep the vessels charged.
With Canada in the midst of a federal election, Collins said he hopes to make the electrification of BC Ferries an election issue for federal leaders.
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