Washington State Ferries picks Siemens for Jumbo Mark II hybrid conversions

Written by Nick Blenkey
Washington State Ferries vessel

Washington State Ferries Jumbo Mark II class ferry M/V Wenatchee.

Washington State Ferries has moved a major step forward on its long planned conversion of its three Jumbo Mark II class ferries, the largest in the fleet, from diesel to hybrid electric propulsion. In early October, the trustee administering the nationwide federal Volkswagen settlement approved up to $35 million to support retrofitting the first of the ferries from diesel to electric power.

This step brings the state ferry system closer to meeting the goals outlined in an executive order by Gov. Jay Inslee that directs WSF to move toward a zero emissions fleet.

“Converting the biggest, dirtiest ferries in the fleet is a huge milestone in our efforts to decarbonize the state and fulfill our obligation to help defeat climate change,” said Inslee. “In addition to reducing emissions, moving to an all-electric ferry fleet will save taxpayers money on ferry operating costs, virtually eliminate engine noise and vibration that can hurt orca whales, and improve reliability of service.”

WSF has selected Siemens to conduct a propulsion control system replacement and hybrid conversion studies and system design for the three ferries, which each have a capacity of 1,800 passengers and 202 vehicles.

Over the next several years, Siemens will work with WSF to electrify the ferries, ultimately transitioning them from diesel fuel to nearly zero-carbon-emission vessels as directed by the executive order.

David Grucza, Siemens Marine Director, says Siemens was selected for the conversions based on its being the original system designer,with proven successes with other hybrid-electric propulsion projects across Europe, such as the recent conversion of the 142-meter Princess Benedikte. Operated by Scandlines, it stores excess electrical energy in batteries, eliminating the need for one of five of its diesel-driven generators.

“This will put WSF on track to reach its greenhouse gas reduction goal,” Grucza says. “The conversions will lower fuel and maintenance costs by more than $14 million annually. Additionally, ferry passengers will enjoy more pleasant and cleaner rides that are free from diesel engine noise, vibration and exhaust.”

Siemens is now completing an engineering study in am effort to update obsolete equipment on the Jumbo Mark II class vessels. On receipt of funding, anticipated in November 2019, Siemens will proceed with the design of the hybrid conversion which includes removal of two propulsion generators, installation of battery storage, and development of the rapid charging system.

Siemens engineers will then work alongside the selected shipyard to complete the hybridization process on all three vessels. The project will also include rapid shore charging stations at each pier.

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