HEADED FOR HARBOR ISLAND: M/V Wenatchee, making state-ferry history

(Photo courtesy “Boating Motes”)

Also seen in Elliott Bay – Washington State FerriesM/V Wenatchee, under tow. It’s arriving at Vigor on Harbor Island to make history as the first WSF vessel to be converted to hybrid-electric. (That’s also where the ferry was built 25 years ago.) The Wenatchee’s propulsion system also will be updated during the conversion. When it’s complete next year, it will return to service on the Seattle-Bainbridge Island route, and M/V Tacoma will head to Vigor for its hybrid-electric conversion.

18 Replies to "HEADED FOR HARBOR ISLAND: M/V Wenatchee, making state-ferry history"

  • LyndaB September 11, 2023 (1:44 pm)

    This is very cool.

  • proudpugetridger September 11, 2023 (2:44 pm)

    Well, this is interesting…the largest Washington State Ferries are already a form of “hybrid” (Diesel-electric).  I wonder what we’re actually getting to replace the existing powerplants (??), and just how much emissions will actually be reduced by the replacement internal combustion engines.  I’m also curious how this gets funded, as the WSF system has been “in the red” for several years.  We already have the highest fuel taxes in the nation, and property taxes are in the upper range of states in America.  If it’s ultimately a user-funded upgrade the cost for each Puget Sound crossing would be HUGE.  This smell fishy (pun intended). 

    • WSB September 11, 2023 (3:12 pm)

      The funding information is part of the WSF news release linked in the story.

      • proudpugetridger September 11, 2023 (4:50 pm)

        You (or I) might be missing some info…the initial budget, which included only PARTIAL funding, was approved.  That approval was given with the knowledge that we’d need to find the balance of money needed concurrently as the vessels are being upgraded.  Per state requirements, the whole funding package needs to go back through the legislation process if it’s more than 10% over the initial budget projection.  Currently (pun intended) the project is 50% over budget!   Additionally, the ‘docking stations’ that would help supplement the vessels’ batteries during the loading/unloading process is not even on the radar screen yet.  Thus the new hybrid ferries would need to run the diesel generators nearly full time, which is exactly how the existing diesel-electric units already operate.  When you weigh all the factors, keeping the current functional system in place seems to make sense until all the variables can be sorted through.

    • Greg September 11, 2023 (3:31 pm)

      These are all questions that a simple google search could answer for you.Think of the current ferries a Prius. Its a hybrid but ultimately 100% of the energy input comes from the gasoline (or diesel for the ferry). the retrofit will make it like a Prius Prime, that can plug in and charge up the battery and use electricity to go as far as is practical, but with gas (diesel for the ferries) as back up. So the retrofit ferries would run on electricity a vast majority of the time rather than diesel all of the time.As for your funding questions, that you could easily google for the answers, these are all aging vessels and all need overhauls. This just takes that opportunity to do whats already needed from a maintenance perspective and leverage that to improve how these pieces of our infrastructure use our resources. It would be great if we could go straight to battery electric. I’m sure we will get there eventually. when we do it will vastly reduce the amount of pollutants going in to our puget sound as well as all the engine noise that is impacting our resident Orca whales and other marine life.

      • proudpugetridger September 11, 2023 (5:02 pm)

        Lots to unpack here…1) the “impact to our residence orcas is assumed to be propeller related, with nothing to do with the powerplant(s), 2) The pollutant factor is a wash, as both battery and generator machines will rely on diesel engines, at least until any shore-power charging system(s) can be figured out.  “These “aging vessels” were projected to have a 60-year lifespan with allowances for maintenance and repairs.  Operating the WSF system is woefully expensive already, so this premature upgrade seems a bit wasteful.  We would have a much different discussion if the ferries were even close to self-funded, using revenue generated primarily through tolls collected by those actually using the boats.  That’s my 2-cents worth anyway.

        • skeeter September 11, 2023 (6:30 pm)

          proudpugetridger –  you are misunderstanding when you state “The pollutant factor is a wash, as both battery and generator machines will rely on diesel engines.”  No one is installing a diesel generator at the ferry terminal.  The electricity will come from the city electric grid – same that powers your TV or the ships plugged into shorepower at terminal 5.  Seattle’s electicity comes primarily from hydroelectric and no diesel is burned to make electricity.

          • proudpugetridger September 11, 2023 (7:12 pm)

            Please do a bit of research Skeeter.  They don’t quite have the shore power connection figured out as of right now, although they are close.  Additionally, the load/unload duration is not sufficient to offer any significant charging (load bank) opportunities, so the off-hours charging is the only chance to utilize shore power.  So yes, the bulk of charging will come from the vessel-mounted generators.  Hopefully, they’ll figure this out soon though.  …and it’s 50 million dollars over budget, before the project even starts!

          • Ron Swanson September 12, 2023 (9:41 am)

            A lot of confident misinformation here: they will indeed be fully charging the boats in the 20 minute dwell period during unloading/loading.  The current transfer is obviously going to be immense, so the shore power setup will include battery banks to level the demand on the grid over the day.  So no, the bulk of the charging won’t be dependent on diesel, that’s the whole point of the project!

      • skeeter September 11, 2023 (6:38 pm)

        Hey Greg I like your Prius Prime analogy.  Do you know what the targeted “all electric” range is for the ferry?  3 pr 4 miles before the battery is drained and the diesel engine kicks in?    The Seattle/Bainbridge crossing is 7 or 8 miles, right?  

    • Vrrrioom September 11, 2023 (11:11 pm)

      The ferry system isn’t a business, it’s a service. It’s neither in the red nor in the black, it’s a thing that costs money. It’s not supposed to make money. Like the post office, military, DOT, which it is a part of, fire response, etc. Fishy would be if it was in the black.It’s also absolutely critical infrastructure for the region.

      • Bill September 12, 2023 (8:53 am)

        .It’s also absolutely critical infrastructure for the region.”Therefore just as critically – it should be run efficiently — it doesn’t have to ‘make’ any of that diry olde inconvenient profit!

  • Jake September 11, 2023 (3:07 pm)

    HUUUUGE W. Need to get off polluting methods of transportation. Up next: converting our bus lines in West seattle to electric. 

    • Charles Burlingame September 11, 2023 (3:33 pm)

      If West Seattle had ten times as much bus service, and it was all still diesel buses, that would be a bigger W.

  • Graciano September 11, 2023 (3:10 pm)

    They going to have diesel generators at the docks to charge up these ferries?

    • skeeter September 11, 2023 (6:43 pm)

      Nope.  There will be a couple of stationary bikes at the ferry terminal.  People will used pedal power to generate electricity to charge the ferry battery.  

  • Bus September 11, 2023 (7:28 pm)

    Vashon has been preparing for this technology for decades.

  • BB September 12, 2023 (9:58 am)

    I hope they don’t replace this boat with a tiny boat but use the Walla Walla instead.

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