Washington’s largest ferries will soon make switch to hybrid-electric

SEATTLE — Washington State Ferries (WSF) is beginning its journey to zero emissions by converting its largest ships into electric hybrids starting in September of 2023.

WSF is the largest ferry network in the country, but also happens to be the biggest culprit for greenhouse gas emissions among all Washington state agencies. The shift to electric ferries comes as part of the service’s long term roadmap through 2040.

“This contract is a big step toward providing our ferry-served communities with better air quality and more sustainable service,” said Program Administrator Matt Ruden. “We’re tackling the biggest emitters in our fleet first, the Jumbo Mark IIs, which contribute 26% of our ferries’ greenhouse gas emissions. When our terminals are electrified in 2026, we expect emissions from these three vessels to drop by roughly 95%.”

After a long, competitive process among shipbuilders in Washington, boat-building company Vigor got the winning bid at just over $150 million. In addition to converting the engines over to hybrids, Vigor is also tasked with replacing old and degrading propulsion systems. WSDOT says that this will increase reliability and life expectancy while ensuring that the ferries will be running for days to come.

WSF has received $1.34 billion for the project so far and the state says the funding will convert to over $40 million in competitive future grants.