BC Ferries plans to switch to hybrid-electric fleet on major routes by 2029

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Waiting to board a ferry from Departure Bay Wednesday, passenger Marcus White was excited to learn that BC Ferries is planning to switch to hybrid-electric ships.

“I think it’s a really good idea. It would probably boost the economy, and it would be cheaper in the long run with EVs,” said White.

Nanaimo’s Fiona Sewell agreed.

“We need to better ourselves, and the faster we can do it, the better it is for us,” said Sewell.

According to BC Ferries, its plan will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and noise. It will also see up to seven new major vessels built to replace its aging fleet on Vancouver Island to Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast to Lower Mainland routes.

“We do expect they will be similar in size to a spirit class vessel, we are still at the beginning of that process with expressions of interest,” said BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall.

Island-class ferries, which are now running between Nanaimo and Gabriola Island and Campbell River and Quadra Island, are already battery-equipped hybrid vessels. But the charging infrastructure on shore isn’t up and running yet, so their sailings still rely mostly on diesel.

BC Ferries says it plans to have those routes fully electrified soon.

“At this point, that infrastructure is not in place at those locations at this point in time, but it is something that we are planning for the future,” said Marshall.

Since shipbuilders are still pricing their bids, BC Ferries isn’t yet revealing how much it will cost to replace aging vessels with hybrid ferries. The corporation plans to have the new vessels in place beginning in 2029.

“I would love to see it sooner, to be quite honest. The sooner, the better,” said Sewell.

Canadian and international shipbuilders have until Dec. 1 to submit bids for the new fleet. The plan will then require approval from the BC Ferries board by next summer.

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