Hybrid Ferries Coming to Battery Park City Terminal, Offering Lower Emissions and Less Noise
NY Waterway, the company that operates between the Battery Park City Ferry Terminal and various cities in New Jersey, has committed to converting several of its vessels to diesel-electric hybrid propulsion.
“Our goal is a 100 percent electric fleet when we land at Battery Park,” Don Liloia, NY Waterway’s executive vice president, at the February 23 meeting of the Executive Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1). “There’ll be no engine noise. There’s always prop wash, because the prop always has to turn.”
This move may partially address a decade of complaints by residents of northern Battery Park City, who have decried the low-frequency rumble of engines revving at the dock, starting as early as 6am each weekday morning. This condition stems from the policy of ferry operators of not tying up at the terminal, but instead running their engines at full throttle to press the vessels to the side of the dock while passengers board and disembark, as a means of saving time. Local parents say that the engine noise, combined with horns blasting as the boats pull away, has long deprived children in nearby apartments of sleep.
Alan Warren, NY Waterway’s vice president of operations and maintenance, added, “this project started in 2017 when I hired a naval architecture firm to do a conceptual study for us. And we have come to the conclusion that we can achieve a hybrid solution using batteries that provide 140 kilowatt hours in the four boats that we want to convert, our President-class boats.” He said of the new design, “you can compare it to a Prius—when you demand the power, it will deliver on demand.”
The retrofit of the four vessels will be made possible by a $7.3-million federal grant that will help NY Waterway install the first hybrid engines in its fleet. The grant will be used to repower the propulsion systems on these vessels from conventional, diesel-only engines to a hybrid design (batteries backed up by diesel engines) and is intended to lay the groundwork for an ultimate conversion to all-electric propulsion.
“Since we received that grant,” Mr. Warren continued, “our goal now is truly to become reliant on electric, with no diesel engine running at all. With the evolution of the batteries in the last several years, we’ll be able to operate 80 minutes on strictly battery power, without running generators.”
As the batteries in the newly outfitted vessels become depleted throughout the day, he explained, “we will lay up in a dock, where we will be able charge a boat in about six to eight minutes. This would take place on the Hoboken side.”
“So the goal is to rely on electric power and not burn any diesel,” Mr. Warren said. “We will have to have generators on board, because part of our requirement with the Coast Guard is that we must have a stable secondary power supply for safety concerns. But our goal is really to become 100 percent electric.”
Mr. Liloia added, “so what you should have is a relatively silent boat, and no emissions at the dock.”
When CB1 chair Tammy Meltzer asked about the schedule for implementing this plan, Mr. Warren answered, “probably 12 to 18 months. We have to go through the bidding process, which will take six months. Then we’ll go right to the shipyard to begin the work. Summer of next year is our goal—late spring or early summer” of 2024.