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US passenger/vehicle diesel-powered ferry to be converted into all-electric vessel

The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) has announced that the Gee’s Bend Ferry will be transformed from diesel-powered into a battery-electric vessel. The conversion is a joint federal-state project with a US$1m grant through the US Environmental Protection Agency.

According to state officials, it will become the first zero-emission passenger/vehicle ferry of its type in the USA. ALDOT estimates that each of the vessel’s four diesel engines runs up to 2,700 hours annually. As such, switching from diesel to electric power is expected to eliminate diesel fuel emissions and reduce the ferry’s operating expenses.

The ferry runs five round-trip voyages a day, 362 days a year, between the town of Camden and the rural community of Gee’s Bend in Wilcox County. An interim ferry will run until the power conversion is done in 2018. Funding for the conversion is part of the National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program.

“It is exciting that the state of Alabama will lead the nation with the use of this clean technology,” transportation spokesman Tony Harris said in a statement. “This is an opportunity for the Alabama Department of Transportation to showcase innovations, while maintaining this important passenger ferry service for the people of Wilcox County.”

A number of other organisations are involved in the project, including Seattle-based Glosten, which conducted the feasibility study; HMS Ferries, also based in the state of Washington, which operates the Gee’s Bend Ferry for ALDOT; Siemens’ marine division; and Alabama Power, which will enhance electric service to the Gee’s Bend Ferry terminal on the Camden side of the river. - May 2017

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