NETWORKING FOR STRONGER PORT INDUSTRY AND BETTER COMMUNITY
A new all-electric, zero-emissions ferry
arrived in San Francisco by tugboat from Washington state on Sunday,
according to San Francisco Chronicle. Considered the first commercial
maritime vessel in the United States powered entirely by hydrogen fuel
cell technology, it will begin taking passengers on rides along the San
Francisco waterfront in late spring.
Developed with $3 million in state
funding, the 75-passenger catamaran called the Sea Change is the part of
a push by the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation
Authority, which operates ferry service in a large part of the bay, to
eventually phase out diesel ferries, which produce black puffs of
noxious pollutants as they chug through the water.
The agency also plans to roll out
battery-electric ferries soon (in a separate program, the Angel Island
Ferry Co. plans to electrify its ferry between Tiburon and the island
next year). The fuel cell electric ferry is a pilot project meant to
demonstrate another zero-emissions alternative for passenger ferries and
the larger shipping industry, which at almost 3% of global greenhouse
gas emissions has a bigger carbon footprint than air transportation.
The Sea Change can operate for 16 hours
before being refueled at the end of the day from a tank at the harbor,
similar to the diesel ferries in the fleet. The major difference is that
the only emissions are water vapor.
The California Air Resources
Board provided the $3 million grant to the Bay Area Air Quality
Management District to work with Switch Maritime and other companies to
develop the technology used in the Sea Change, part of $20 million in
grants from cap-and-trade auction proceeds for advanced technology
vehicles and equipment.
Because it’s the first, the Sea Change —
at 70 feet long — is smaller than most passenger ferries that operate
in San Francisco Bay. It also moves slower, typically operating at
around 11 knots (13 mph) compared to larger diesel ferries that traverse
the bay at 34 knots (40 mph). The ferry cost about $14 million
to build; additional vessels will be cheaper, likely costing 30% more to
make than traditional diesel ferries. In a recent open letter, a
coalition of environmental groups called on the California Air
Resources Board to adopt a zero-emission standard for all marine vessels
by 2040, citing health risks caused by pollution at harbors and during
The Water Emergency Transportation
Authority plans to exceed the state’s requirement to transfer its fleet
to zero emissions by 2025 on all short routes.