Toronto considering electric ferry fleet replacement strategy

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

A report being considered by the City of Toronto general government and licensing committee this week recommends a plan to replace the current, aging fleet of ferry vessels with fully electric vessels.

This shift to full electrification supports the City’s TransformTO Net Zero Strategy and commitment to accelerate climate action to achieve net zero city-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. In particular, this initiative aligns with the target of transitioning 20 per cent of the municipal fleet to zero emissions by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030.

“I support the full electrification of our future ferry fleet. This is the right thing to do for the environment and it is an investment that will ultimately save the government money. This is one example of how we are successfully implementing the City’s TransformTO Net Zero Strategy and honouring our commitment to accelerate climate action to achieve net zero city-wide greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mayor John Tory

The report recommends replacing four ferry vessels over a 15-year period with a hybrid diesel-electric technology. Full electrification of the vessel fleet is estimated to reduce 2,800 tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually, which is equivalent to removing 600 cars from the road every year. In addition, displacing diesel fumes, which contribute to air and noise pollution, will provide an improved ridership experience for those visiting Toronto Island.

Also, staff recommend an increase in funding for the additional design and construction of support services required to advance a fully electric design for the ferries and the required shore-side infrastructure. This change, once the full fleet is replaced, will lead to annual savings of up to $1.1 million, according to the report. The projected payback on full electrification would be within 20 years.

Toronto Island Park is served by a ferry fleet of four primary vessels and one heritage vessel, which together transport over 1.4 million passengers and 5,000 vehicles annually. Vessels are between 50 to 100 years old, well beyond the industry average lifespan for similar ferries.

Estimates for the completed designs range between $23 and $25 million per vessel. The cost for the fully electric vessels is comparable to hybrid vessels and they will have increased passenger capacity. Additional costs for shore-side infrastructure will be required.

“Our investment payback on electrifying a replacement fleet, based on fuel cost savings alone, is estimated to be $1.1 million annually once the full electrification of the fleet is complete. This positive assessment shouldn’t shock anyone that electrification is the best ferry fleet consideration,” said Councillor Paul Ainslie.


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