Electric ferry to be powered by federal infrastructure funds


U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan announced the Federal Transit Administration is awarding more than $285 million to Alaska’s ferry system from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which serves more than 30 communities across 3,500 miles of coastline.

The funding, all awarded to the Alaska Marine Highway System, is designated to replacing the Tustemena, upgrading ferry dock infrastructure in rural communities, modernizing four vessels, procuring an electric ferry, designing a new mainliner vessel, and for generating sustainable operations.

Last year, an electric ferry set a new record by traveling 50 miles on a charge. The Finnish company Danfoss Editron reported that the ferry Ellen set a distance record with the trip, which may become included in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The price for building that ferry was 40 percent higher than than a conventional vessel, but operating costs are reported to be 75 percent lower, according to reports. It is estimated that the electric ferry will save the release of 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

The distance between Juneau and Haines is about 80 nautical miles, which exceeds the current world record. The distance between Skagway and Haines is about 16 miles, and thus the ferry is more suited for that short hop, which is now served by a private ferry in the summer.

Some $46 million was awarded for the Alaska electric ferry project, and the state will put in more than $11 million as its part of the match.

Another $68 million was awarded to the state to replace the aging Tustemena. The cost of that build is estimated to be more than $85 million, requiring a state match. Because it’s federal money, the Ketchikan Shipyard, where Vigor Alaska built the Tazlina and Hubbard, will have to compete for the work with shipyards in Washington and Mississippi.

The funding was made possible by H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that both Alaska senators voted for and in which Senator Murkowski played a lead role writing and negotiating for Alaska. On Nov. 5, 2021, Congress passed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, driving the national debt to historic levels.

A list of the ferry grants for Alaska is at this link.

Funding Details: (Over $285 Million is being awarded to six Alaska Marine Highway System projects.)

  1. $72 Million for the Modernization of Four Critical AMHS Vessels Necessary for Service and Environmental Benefits.

Total Project Cost: $90,081,932
Federal Request: $72,065,546
State Funded Match: $18,016,386

Announced Award: $72,065,545

  1. $68 Million to Replace the M/V Tustumena Vessel Serving Rural Southwest Alaska

Total Project Cost: $85,610,480
Federal Request: $68,488,384
State Funded Match: $17,122,096

Announced Award: $68,488,384.00

  1. $45 Million for Critical Upgrades to Ferry Dock Infrastructure in Five Rural Alaska Communities

Total Project Cost: $56,848,018
Federal Request: $45,478,414
State Funded Match: $11,369,604

Announced Award: $45,483,214.00

  1. $46 Million to Cultivate a Systems Approach to Sustainable Transportation by Implementing Climate Responsive Ferry Vessel Options.

Total Project Cost: $57,767,509
Federal Request: $46,214,008
State Funded Match: $11,553,502

Announced Award: $46,214,008

  1. $8 Million for Anticipating Future Service & Replacement Needs by Designing a New Alaska Mainliner

Total Project Cost: $10,739,520
Federal Request: $8,591,616
State Funded Match: $2,147,904

Announced Award: $8,591,616

  1. $44 Million to Restore the Health of the AMHS for Sustainable Operations to Rural Communities.  

Total Project Cost: $89,647,600
Federal Request: $44,823,800
State Funded Match: $44,823,800

Announced Award: $44,823,800


  1. Electric wow how green. People should look into how the mines are operated to get the minerals for batteries. But who cares so long as I can post on space book how great it is to be on a Electric ferry.

  2. Aren’t you all glad you re-elected Lisa? She knows how to being home the bacon. At least MRAK was able to give her a little credit this time.

    • No. Princess brought home “bacon” we can’t cook in SE. If you lived here you’d know this is every bit as stupid as our electric bus that doesn’t work well in winter.

      Dan did as told, as usual. I can’t wait to vote against him. Even if the choice is Begich. At least Begich is honest about what he is.

    • Oh… she helped to toss us a few bits and pieces. All is forgiven.
      You sound like the abused wife who gets an occasional bit of jewelry or some flowers. All is forgiven, I am sure.

  3. Swampy Dan strikes again. The electric ferry (if it ever gets a up here) will be useless.

    We’ve tried the trendy before. The fast ferry incapable of use in the winter. The USS Boondoggle will be the same. A multi million dollar waste of money.

    Besides the cost, what about the cost and maintenance of charging stations?

    That money is better spent on extending the road or refurbishing old ferries.

    The only thing more useless that an AK Democrat is an AK Republican.

  4. Is the Chinese credit card maxxed out yet? We must have had our credit limit raised again. I imagine that electric ferry will spend most of its life at the docks awaiting repairs and glitch fixes like Juneau’s electric bus.

  5. Last year, an electric ferry set a new record by traveling 50 miles on a charge. Was that record set in the dead of winter with a headwind or during the summer on a calm day? What kind of charging stations will be required and will it likely be generated with diesel fuel powered electrical substation(s) in Haines? How long does it take to get 100% charge to go 50 miles?

    Most of the time you should only charge an EV to 80% because charging rates slow down dramatically past the 80% mark. And two, the long-term health of your vehicle’s battery pack is improved when kept below 100%. 80% of 50 is 40 so you have a one way trip range of 20 miles under ideal conditions. Winter temps reduce range by up to 50% so count on 20 miles total or 10 miles each way. Recharge required after the 16 mile trip to Haines or Juneau. Don’t forget lithium batteries lose charging ability after every charge.

    “A high-end lithium-polymer battery can lose about 20 percent of its capacity after 1000 charge cycles.” So that would mean after 500 trips- if you charge batteries after the 16 mile O/W trip, the range is reduced by 20%. I wish them all the luck on getting and EV ferry to work.

    • Also: how long will it take to recharge the batteries? Will the ferry sit idle for a couple days charging?

      Is Haines gonna be reimbursed for the enormous drain this will put on their grid to generate the power? Or for having to run the additional infrastructure out to the dock to do so?

      What makes the Juneau-Haines-Skagway run “economical” is its up and back same day.

  6. I would rather try the trip in a lifeboat, than being trapped on one of those dreadful electrical fire hazards. Another colossally stupid waste of tax dollars created by a misallocation of resources as the result of an ill-advised policy initiative that lacked a cradle to grave analysis of its merits.

  7. I’ll be curious to see what happens in winter. The winds pick up, cold drains electric batteries, and the waves can be quite fun.

    Be ironic if the damn thing ran out of juice around Berners Bay and had to be rescued by a diesel powered boat.

    The whole goal of the left is to get us used to life as serfs. Live as inconveniently as possible, abort and trans many of us out of existence, and limit the competition to resources.

    This is just another example.

  8. Wake me when you see one thing tangible from all this spending. The only infrastructure coming from all this money in Alaska, is bigger houses higher on the hills ringing Eagle River and Anchorage, and more private, exclusive lodges. Some jobs in the countries that are building all the new Porsche, Audi, Mercedes, and BMWs rolling up to them. Plus, we (the taxpayer) are going to spend $57.7 MILLION to “Cultivate a Systems Approach to Sustainable Transportation by Implementing Climate Responsive Ferry Vessel Options?” WTF! Sounds like a lot of DC/Alaska trips, luncheons, dinners, excursions, hotel rooms (tax exempt for the visiting Feds). Maybe that’s the part for Alaska. What a joke.

  9. The onshore sources of the electricity used to recharge the batteries will likely negate any reduction in CO2 emission. The Finnish ferry has no secondary propulsion system. That is not a good fit for Alaskan waters. Using current technology, the batteries will need to be replaced in 8 to 10 years at a cost likely more than the original ferry. This has all the earmarks of another Alaskan boondoggle.

  10. What is the effect that this vessel will have on grid in Haines and Skagway
    With a 50 mile range how are they planning to get it to SE Alaska. The last place on the way north from Seattle that might be Abe to handle charging it would be Campbell River BC. That means it would have to be transported by Diesel engine propelled heavy lift ship
    A very large waste of money to cover a 16 mile run that is now being covered by a private contractor

  11. What I’d like to know is WHAT in the Blazes are they going to do, when the “Trusty, Tustemena runs out of electricity somewhere between Kodiak and (somewhere along the Aleutian Islands) Dutch Harbor? This is going to be a joke. They should have done this for the Southeastrn Alaska and left the Trusty Tustemena run by diesel oil..Unless I missed something somewhere..Inwhich I probably have.

  12. This ridiculous idea will cost more than budgeted and will be broke down or in the ship yard more than on the water. If they are concerned about the co footprint of America quit letting illegals cross the boarder which will use a lot more fossil fuels.

  13. After some measure of deep dive on Ellen the Dutch battery ferry, I’ve found it has a 4.3MWh battery and can carry 31 cars or 5 big rigs and as many as 198 passengers with a top speed of 15.5 knots, so likely much less while loaded. While it’s record is 50 miles it’s route is up to 22 nautical miles between charges. They shed weight by restricting the use of steel and deck furniture is made of recycled paper instead of wood. They also don’t carry their own vehicle or passenger loading gear but require it at any ports of call and only charge the battery at their home port.

    From what I can gather Kasidaya Creek Hydro is the main source of power for Skagway and Haines, with the possibility of Dewey Lakes, Chilkat Valley Hydro, and maybe some other smaller hydro added in. Kasidaya Creek is a 3 MW rated power plant, the others are below 1 MW some significantly smaller. From what I know of Hydro power, it is heavily subsidized especially so in Southeast. I have no idea what the daily or hourly electrical usage of Skagway or Haines might be, but I suspect that it would be much higher during the summer season when this electric ferry would be most in demand. If there is enough additional power available to charge a 4MWh battery it will require a substantial system upgrade, chargers at both ends, and likely a much smaller ferry to have multiple trips per day in Alaskan waters. Likely there isn’t enough excess available power so it will be a one way per day trip to allow the ferry battery to charge overnight.

    Using the ferry Ellen as a proof of concept this idea actually seems feasible, at least for part of the year on a very small run, with heavy government financial involvement. With heavily subsidized Hydro power and a heavily subsidized battery ferry over a short distance I have no doubt our government can, and will, sink hundreds of millions of dollars on something that isn’t needed and could be done cheaper by the private sector.

  14. An electric ferry might be useful if you are shuttling people from Seattle to Bainbridge island. Pretty much any longer distances will tax the batteries too much, and the life of the ferry will be shortened.
    But, I did read something the other day that is promising. Apparently 85% of the electric vehicles sold are still on the road. The rest managed to make it home.

  15. If we really desire to go green, why not go back to sail vessels. Unlimited range, no environmental impact. Is speed the only concern for communities that produce no product? If tourism is the only product, they will be thrilled to ride the wind to see Alaska. Spending big tax money on non contributors to the national product is a poor investment with no return. Nobody is forced to live on an island. Even a government subsidized airline would be cheaper than the ferry plan.They could invest in a few of the new cargo airships that have very little carbon footprint and no need of a new runway. I mean, as long as there is such a need to spend trillions saving the environment while serving these communities.

  16. Didn’t we learn about these batteries during the last hurricane in Florida? How many teslas burst into flames once sea water was introduced to the batteries?

  17. I think your numbers are a bit off.
    The cost of the Tusty replacement vessel will be more like 240M,, going up and up with inflation. That will leave the state on the hook for 35M or so.
    I am doubtful they will attempt a full e-boat but who knows they might be that stupid. The technology just isn’t there yet,, but they will do it anyways just cuz there is lots of cash up for grabs to anyone who will push that agenda. I tend to think they will push the hybrid experiment first, which will also be a dismal failure.

  18. Alaska’s favorite topic of discussion, The Marine Highway System. Over the years we’ve seen lots of really stupid ideas come forth regarding improving the Ferry System.
    Whether it was Wally Hickel’s purchase of the Wickersham, to Bill Sheffield’s flirting with Boeing’s Hydrofoil to Tony Knowles disastrous Fast Ferries ⛴️,.
    Everyone of the convulsions described above have led to a weakened system with higher operating costs and degraded service to the public.

    Now comes this Electric Boat idea. ” The March of Folly” continues.

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