Company floats idea for local ferries to go electric

DES MOINES, Wash. — Washington state wants a fleet of electric ferries but where is the technology coming from to make that happen?

One company has already floated a potential solution for some ferries, and its boat could be a bridge to more electric boats. On Wednesday, the Des Moines Marina hosted demonstrations of the Navier electric boat.

Its technology could someday be used in ferries.

Pat Wolfrom does maintenance at the marina and was one of the first to notice the unique looking Navier hydrofoil.

“I had to look at it for a second. It’s got some pretty interesting technology,” said Wolfrom.

He knows his boats and knows that hydrofoils are a style of boat that comes with advantages when it comes to fuel.

“You can power a hydrofoil with any type of motor: diesel, gas, electric,” said Wolfrom.

It’s hard to miss the sleek black Navier hydrofoil moored at the marina. Powered by electricity, it’s designed for speed and efficiency. Navier’s CEO, Sampriti Bhattacharya, knows that this boat is a future concept that can run now.

“Boats are going electric, and what hydrofoil does is it addresses the key challenges of electric boats - that is range,” said Bhattacharya.

She says the hydrofoil running above the water reduces drag, and that extends the range while saving on fuel costs and weight. She says it would also be 10 times more efficient than a gas boat.

“It actually makes a lot of business sense for applications for ferries and whatnot, because suddenly, the operational cost is drastically lower,” said Bhattacharya.

Stephanie Bowman is the maritime director for Washington. She says the boat’s electric tech could be used in ferries across our region.

“You could look at a new mosquito fleet of ferries connecting communities,” said Bowman.

Des Moines City Manager, Michael Matthias, says electric boats like the Navier hydrofoil, getting people from Des Moines to Seattle in 20 minutes, would be convenient and environmentally friendly.

“In terms of minimizing impacts on the Sound, on orcas, on other marine life - so yes, we could see boats; hopefully they would carry more passengers than this does,” said Matthias.

The Navier hydrofoil right now is clearly not a commercial ferry or even a commercial boat, but Bowman says the technology in it is already being considered by Kitsap Transit for its ferry that runs from Bremerton to Seattle. So, we could see it someday in local ferries across our region.