One of the BC Ferries’ newest hybrid-electric vessels, Island Discovery, is set to take its maiden voyage with passengers this week.

On Wednesday, June 10, the Island Discovery will set sail on the Texada Island – Powell River route, departing at 3 p.m. in the afternoon.

The new Island Discovery is the first of a pair of hybrid ships to go into service. The two vessels were purchased from overseas and carried by a semi-submersible transport vessel from Constanta, Romania, arriving on Vancouver Island in January.

According to the BC Ferries, the ships are designed for full future electric operation, however, fitted with hybrid technology to bridge the gap until shore charging infrastructure and funding become available.

With Island Discovery officially launching service, the transport organization will retire the 59-year old North Island Princess.

The second hybrid-electric vessel in the new Island Class series, Island Aurora, will be put into service on the Port McNeill – Alert Bay – Sointula route next week. Island Aurora will be replacing Quadra Queen II.

“They’re not fully electric. They’re a bit of a Prius hybrid and they’re diesel and battery, but they will be converted later on, and then become Tesla’s,” said Glenn Garry, an electric vehicle advocate, when the ships arrived back in January.

One of the two 400 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery banks on each Island Class vessel, supplied by Richmond-based
Corvus Energy. (BC Ferries)

Depending on the configuration, they will be able to carry around 47 vehicles and 300 to 450 passengers and crew.

The design of the new vessels is aimed at reducing underwater radiated noise, lowers emissions and improving customer experience.

Two more of the Island Class Ferries will operate by 2022 on the Campbell River to Quadra Island route, along with the Nanaimo Harbour to Gabriola Island route.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic causing much of the economy to shut down, the BC Ferries had always anticipated launching the new ships by mid-2020 and are seemingly right on schedule.

One planned element surrounding the launch that the organization isn’t able to go ahead with was a public open house to showcase Island Discovery.

A virtual tour of the new hybrid ship is available as an alternative.

Graham Cox