The New Zealand capital of Wellington is on track to become the first city in the Southern Hemisphere to boast its own locally-designed and made zero-emissions electric ferry.
Not content with their country proposing a Clean Car bill and becoming one of the first countries worldwide to enshrine a commitment to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement in a carbon bill, a team of Wellington boat builders are now focussed on bringing carbon-free transport to the water by mid-2020.
Under the moniker Wellington Electric Boat Building Company, they are currently the putting finishing touches to the hulls of a new electric catamaran ferry contracted for the Wellington Harbour ferry service East by West Ferries.
Once this initial stage is all done and dusted, the team plans to take the hulls to the Seaview Marina in Wellington where the next stage of the project will begin.
By mid-2020, it is hoped that the 19m long and 7m wide ferry, which will be powered by two electric motors offering a top speed of 20 knots, will be ready to carry a maximum of 135 passengers across Wellington Harbour six times a day.
The vessel, which could cost some $NZ4 million ($A3.87 million) once complete, will start each day with fully charged batteries and top up in 15 minute periods after each return trip.
It is expected that running the vessel will be 60% cheaper than the ferry company’s diesel boats, which use about 250,000 litres of diesel a year in total.
“I think it’s the future of boat building in New Zealand,” said Wellington Electric managing director Fraser Foote told New Zealand’s Stuff, noting that with a mostly renewable energy supply it makes sense for the city to take the next step by decarbonising its marine fleet.
The Wellington Electric Boat Building Company was founded by Foote after being approached by East by West director Jeremy Ward who was after a zero emissions ferry inspired by Norwegian vessel Future of the Fjords but had not been able to find an existing New Zealand or Australian electric boat maker.
Correction: A previous version of this article said that the new electric ferry would carry passengers from the North to South Island of New Zealand.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.