Kitsap Transit's Bremerton-Seattle fast ferry route has been selected as a design route for a fully electric fast ferry, according to the transit agency.
Kitsap Transit and its partners were awarded an FTA innovation grant in 2020 to complete a proof of concept report for a high-speed electric passenger ferry, according to a Twitter thread by the agency.
Because the Bremerton route was selected, the vessel will be designed to complete a full round trip through Rich Passage on a single battery charge, the thread states.
The construction of an actual electric vessel is still a ways off. The next step would be for Kitsap Transit and its partners to apply for a new grant that could pay for the full design of the conceptual vessel.
"We still have a lot of work to do in this conceptual phase, including researching battery size, shore-side infrastructure needs and what it would take to charge the vessel at the Bremerton dock," the thread states. "Wish us luck as we apply for funding to take this project to the next phase!"
In August 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration (FTA) selected for funding a Washington State team working to accelerate ferry funding through a joint innovation project, according to a press release from Kitsap Transit at the time.
Kitsap Transit was one of 25 transit authorities nationwide selected to receive a share of approximately $14 million in funding through the Accelerating Innovative Mobility initiative, the release states.
The FTA at that time committed to providing $372,910 toward the Accelerating Innovative Mobility initiative to advance work led by Washington Maritime Blue, "in which regional companies, public agencies, and nonprofits are developing state-of-the-art technology to support this region as a center of maritime excellence," the release states.
The funding for the public-private partnership went toward completing the preliminary design for the high-speed, electric passenger ferry. "The state-of-the-art hydrofoil design will rely on lightweight carbon fiber construction and batteries to speed up travel between urban centers and suburban and rural communities and significantly reduce or eliminate fuel use compared to conventional fast ferries," the 2020 release stated.
“Our three local Ports see this innovation as an opportunity to spur economic recovery in the boatbuilding world, a critically important industry in our region,” Patsy Martin, Executive Director of the Port of Skagit County, said in the release. The Port of Skagit County, along with the ports of Bellingham and Anacortes, each contributed $100,000 in funding. “There are strong maritime industry clusters in each of our districts that could benefit from the design and construction of these vessels in our communities, resulting in a direct economic impact.”
The public-private partnership is led by Washington Maritime Blue, a "strategic alliance formed to foster maritime innovation and sustainability in support of an inclusive blue economy," according to the release.
“This formal Joint Innovation Program supports multiple communities, our sensitive marine ecosystem, decarbonization efforts, job creation and an entire maritime and advanced manufacturing supply chain,” Joshua Berger, Gov. Jay Inslee’s Maritime Sector Lead, Founder and Board Chair of Washington Maritime Blue, said in the release. “This is the value of an organized innovation cluster that can bring partners together and leverage multiple funding and financing mechanisms to advance our shared vision.”
The 2020 press release lists the following program partners:
Naval architecture and marine engineering firm Glosten, the Seattle-based firm that designed Kitsap Transit’s M/V Waterman, the first hybrid-electric passenger ferry to operate commercial service on the Puget Sound. Waterman operates on Kitsap Transit’s Port Orchard-Bremerton route.
Anacortes-based Bieker Boats, whose principal Paul Bieker is well known for the structural design of the hydrofoils for the America’s Cup-winning Team Oracle as well as the foils for the Rich Passage-class fast ferries that operate Kitsap Transit’s Bremerton-Seattle route.
DNV GL, an independent advisor to the maritime and energy industries, is providing technical expertise on routing, permitting, shoreside infrastructure, economic and environmental impact modelling, and business case development.
Public sector stakeholders include the Port of Anacortes, Port of Bellingham and Port of Skagit as well as Kitsap Transit, Tacoma Power, Skagit County and the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County.
In addition to the design of the actual zero-emission ferry, the endeavor also delivers "a business model, which will include studies of route viability, shoreside infrastructure requirements, permitting and regulatory requirements, and economic and environmental impacts," according to the 2020 release.
The ferry will be designed by Bieker Boats and Glosten. It will include options for fully electric propulsion, or diesel-electric propulsion for extended range. The latter option could still be two to three times more fuel efficient than conventional fast ferries and save 1,500 tons of carbon-dioxide annually, the release states.
“We are pleased to collaborate with these grant recipients to develop new service methods to improve safety, increase access, develop more efficient operations, and enhance the transit experience for all,” said FTA Deputy Administrator K. Jane Williams in a statement, according to the release.
“I was excited to receive the news in a phone call directly from FTA Deputy Administrator Jane Williams,” Kitsap Transit Executive Director John Clauson said in the rele.ase “We are thrilled to be part of this innovative project.”
Kitsap Transit's current passenger ferries run on conventional diesel fuel. The vessels' hydrofoils raise much of their hulls above the waterline allowing them to operate at high speeds while not creating a significant wake, avoiding shoreline erosion.
Voters narrowly voted for a .3 percent sales tax increase in 2016 that funded Kitsap Transit's passenger-only ferry service to Seattle from Bremerton, Southworth and Kingston. The transit agency had already operated ferry service between Bremerton and Port Orchard.