Electric cars are humming all around; airlines are getting bullish on electric planes. The next mode of transit to make waves? Battery-powered boats.
Destinations the world over are clamoring for cleaner forms of energy—so it’s no surprise they’re embracing electrified transit as one of the quickest paths to that goal. The sector accounts for about a quarter of annual global greenhouse gas emissions; ships alone are responsible for nearly three percent of that, or about a billion metric tons of CO2 each year.
To avert the worst outcomes of climate change, the United Nations has set critical global targets for net-zero global emissions by 2050. In June 2021, the U.N.’s International Maritime Organization, which oversees shipping regulations, adopted short-term measures to reduce carbon intensity of all ships by 40 percent by 2030. Meanwhile, a fresh infusion of funding—like President Biden’s 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the U.S.—is giving a financial boost to innovations around electric ferry technology.
Beyond reducing air and water pollution, electrified passenger ferries tout a host of benefits for local communities. New ferry service can help ease congestion on roads and existing public transit routes, while making transit cleaner, faster, or more direct.
“An electric battery ferry is a zero-emission option for commuters who may instead have to take a car across a bridge in gridlocked traffic,” says Elise Sturrup, a marine researcher at the nonprofit International Council on Clean Transportation, who has studied electric ferry feasibility.
For travelers, e-ferry offerings are not only practical, but can be fun, offering unique and scenic viewpoints. More waterborne routes can potentially offer an antidote to overtourism, too, by encouraging visitors to explore less well-trodden locales; checking out Oslo’s suburbs, for instance, is made all the more enticing when sailing through its fjords on a commuter ferry. They can also maximize rider comfort by removing noise, fumes, and vibrations, bonuses which benefit local marine life.