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Washington State Ferries launches a hybrid-electric ferry build program

September 9, 2019

On September 9th, Washington State Ferries (WSF) and Vigor’s Seattle shipyard marked the beginning of the WSF fleet’s greening. Earlier in the year, the Washington legislature authorized a contract extension for Vigor to build up to five 144-car Olympic-class, hybrid-electric ferries over the coming years for WSF – the largest ferry system in the United States. Greening of the ferry fleet has been a major objective for WSF and is an important part of Washington’s overarching goal to accelerate the state’s move toward a clean energy future.

Vigor has built the last 12 ferries in the WSF fleet and has actively engaged in the evolution of hybrid-electric solutions. The Olympic-class hull form is one of the most efficient in the fleet with less drag through the water and a small wake for a reduced environmental impact. The new hybrid vessels will utilize this hull form as well. They will be capable of 100% electric operation on most routes once the infrastructure needed for charging is installed. Over the life of the vessels, a 94% reduction in carbon emissions is anticipated along with the added benefit of significantly reduced operating costs for the ferry system.

The design and engineering phase to convert the existing Olympic-class design to hybrid-electric is currently under way. Vigor expects to begin construction in late 2020, and delivery of the first ferry is anticipated late in 2022. WSF’s long-range plan calls for all five ferries to be delivered by 2028, replacing aging vessels in the fleet.