Battery powered electric ferries could be carrying passengers across Auckland Harbour in time for the 2021 America’s Cup, following support from a major ferry operator.
Fullers360 supplied funds this week for the research and development of electric technology for Auckland’s ferry fleet.
Co-ordinating with boat builder McMullen and Wing, the project aimed to have at least one electric ferry operating in the harbour within two years.
Fullers360 Chief Executive Officer Mike Horne said the company had a significant interest in eco-friendly initiatives.
“Fullers360 strongly believes in the potential of electric technology for Auckland’s ferry fleet. We’re seeing steady growth in patronage and need an efficient, eco-friendly and sustainable ferry network to match,”
McMullen and Wing will conduct research into the viability of electric ferries and present findings to Fullers360 in May.
Research will involve assessing the cost, size and battery life of the vessels.
Fullers360 has expressed interest in developing an electric ferry for the Devonport to Downtown Auckland route by 2021 if the research yields positive results.
McMullen and Wing chief executive Michael Eaglan said the America’s Cup was an opportunity to present New Zealand as a world leader in innovative, eco-friendly marine technology.
“New Zealand is already a world leader in maritime exploits, whether it be building super yachts or America’s Cup racing yachts,” he said.
“This is a way of applying that into something positive and focusing on huge challenges like climate change, which is affecting countries all around the world.”
The boat-building company was founded in 1969 and is known for building the Team New Zealand Black Magic yacht, which won the 1995 America’s Cup.
Eaglan said electric ferries presented advantages over the diesel-powered vessels that were currently in use.
“In terms of addressing climate change, electric ferries are a great option because they have zero carbon emissions,” he said.
“Electric ferries are also very quiet both above and below water. The experience will be much nicer for passengers, coastal communities and wildlife in the Hauraki Gulf.”
Eaglan said initial studies found energy costs for running electric ferries were half the cost of using diesel.
Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan said the council-controlled organisation would support any plans to introduce electric ferries in Auckland.
Wellington ferry company East by West announced it would be developing electric ferries in 2018. Its first vessel, expected to be completed in December, will be the first-fully electric commuter boat in the southern hemisphere.
The 2021 America’s Cup will take place in Auckland and is expected to inject between $600 million-$1 billion into the economy.