Wellington’s electric ferry transport just around the corner after sea trials

Wellington’s trans-port ferry operator hopes its electric catamaran will carry passengers through Te Whanganui-a-Tara by Christmas.

East by West Ferries chief executive Jeremy Ward said the Ika Rere (flying fish) is approaching final approval after sea trials which began in August. It is fast becoming the first electric commercial passenger vessel operating in the southern hemisphere.

“It exceeded all of our expectations in terms of speed and battery capacity – the design team are thrilled,” said Ward, who is also director of the Wellington Electric Boat Building Company which produced the ferry at Seaview, Lower Hutt.

East by West Ferries' new electric ferry, Ika Rere, is about to be finalized.

Simon Hoyle / Stuff

East by West Ferries’ new electric ferry, Ika Rere, is about to be finalized.

The 19-meter Ika Rere has improved the designs of East By West’s two existing diesel catamarans, he said. It can carry a maximum of 135 passengers while existing ferries had a limit of 99.

READ MORE:
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* Wellington’s electric ferry is closed, but it may have to wait until next year before it can make its full schedule

Its pair of 350 kilowatt engines can move the craft at 22.5 knots, compared to diesel engines which can travel around 14 knots at full capacity.

Ward said national and international transportation regulations are moving towards sustainability and the technology to support these initiatives is improving day by day.

“We have to embrace the change or get left behind.

The new catamaran is larger and faster than East by West's two existing ferries.

Will Nelson / Stuff

The new catamaran is larger and faster than East by West’s two existing ferries.

“In the coming years, we will see a massive change of course. We have had a huge interest in what we are doing.

Costing $ 8.5 million, the electric ferry cost about double the price of a comparable diesel-powered ferry. Ward said the extra cost would be offset in six to seven years by lower maintenance and fuel costs. East by West ferries use approximately 250,000 liters of fuel between them each year.

He predicted that the cost of similar boats would decrease over time.

Wellington Electric Boat Building Company also developed the onshore charging infrastructure which Ward said was “just as important, fair and difficult”.

The catamaran is powered by energy partners Meridian Energy, which generates electricity from fully renewable sources.

East by West operates daily between Wellington’s Queens Wharf and Days Bay in Lower Hutt, stopping at Matiu / Somes Island on certain services.

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