Behind their sunglasses, Jeremy Ward and Fraser Foot beam with pride at the entrance to the Ika Rere passenger cabin as they help transport officials, politicians and the media on board.
The two are responsible for the resurrection of boat building in Wellington and are set to launch the first fully electric passenger ferry in the southern hemisphere.
âI hadn’t even noticed we were gone,â says a dignitary as the 19-meter catamaran pulls away from Queens Wharf.
Without the signal of a blowing diesel engine, it’s easy to miss your own start.
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“The fact that we are sitting here and not having to yell at each other is the advantage over the combustion. [engines]Foote says as the boat picks up speed through the light choppy water of Te Whanganui-a-Tara. About 5Â½ tons of lithium-ion batteries power the 19-meter craft’s electric motor – a slight flick of the propellers is the only indication that it works.
The Wellington Electric Boat Building Company was founded three years ago by Foote, a boat builder with decades of experience, and Ward, the managing director of East by West Ferries.
Foote says that while the writing isn’t on the wall yet, it is climbing the plinth – interest in Ika Rere (Flying Fish) from New Zealand and around the world strongly suggests the future is electric.
“Potential customers don’t build diesel boats – they know they have to switch to electric propulsion.”
Electric boats, he says, are quieter and more economical. “[East by West] will save $ 250,000 on fuel and $ 50,000 on maintenance [per year]. “
Ward says the world cannot escape the need for lasting solutions. While East by West’s ambition is to eventually replace its diesel boats with boats similar to the Ika Rere, the transport industry is increasingly looking for electric alternatives and wants Wellington’s boats Electric Boat Building Company to be used elsewhere in New Zealand and abroad.
Foote says passenger boats the size of Ika Rere haven’t been built in Wellington for over 20 years, but now that they have their proof of concept, the hope is to start production at Lower Hutt. in the not too distant future.
“The intention is to build a factory in Seaview and produce four to five boats per year.”
Ward says the consumable components of the boat – the batteries – have a surprisingly long lifespan. They would be used as on-board fuel cells and later as plug-in capacitors for over a decade, and would still be useful for years to come in fields like agriculture.
âOn top of that, they will run on 100% renewable energy sourced from Meridian and are approximately 97 or 98% recyclable. “
Ward was eager to officially unveil Ika Rere at a public opening on December 16, after which the boat will be phased in over the summer.