An all-electric ferry being prepared for Bremerton

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An all-electric ferry being prepared for Bremerton

Imagine an all-electric high-speed passenger ferry hydrofoil traveling the Bremerton-Seattle fast ferry route on a single battery charge, saving the environment from another diesel exhaust dump.

It’s not just a pipe dream for Kitsap County commuters.

Local transport experts are drawing up a plan for such a vessel. Once the design is complete, a consortium of agencies including Kitsap Transit – the vessel’s ultimate operator – will seek funding to build the state-of-the-art vessel. It could become a model for passenger-only ferries around the world.

A hydrofoil ferry – featuring a hull that rides just above the waves – can provide a safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation option, said John Clausen, executive director of Kitsap Transit. The innovative ferry with a lightweight carbon fiber hull would reduce environmental impact on air and water quality and marine life, planners noted.

The Bremerton to Seattle fast ferry route was recently chosen by the ship’s developers as the route to launch the airboat ferry once federal funds are secured to build it.

The fast ferry currently handling the sail is an electric boat with a diesel generator that carries 118 passengers. The hydrofoil version will be able to carry 150 people.

“Riding on hydrofoils, the new boat has virtually no wake,” Clausen said.

The Bremerton-Seattle route passes through Rich Passage, a narrow waterway between South Kitsap and Bainbridge Island. Environmentalists have expressed concern that the wake created by the existing 140ft ferry is damaging the shoreline. An all-electric boat has a minimal wake and would allow unlimited crossings through Rich Passage, Clausen noted.

“When you use electric motors rather than diesel engines, it will be better for the population of whales and other marine species that [otherwise] is impacted by noise generated by ships on Puget Sound,” he said.

The earliest Kitsap County commuters could board the futuristic ferry would be 2025, Clausen said.

The next step is to secure financing so that design work can be completed and construction can begin. Washington Maritime Blue is seeking $100 million for up to eight projects, one of which could be the final design and potential construction of the high-speed hydrofoil, said Jennifer States, its vice president of projects and strategy.

“We’re pretty confident that we can find that other funding,” the states said, adding that the recently enacted infrastructure bill contains funds for the ferries.

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