Electric Foil-Assisted Ferry for NYC


An artist’s rendering of an 80′ (24.4m) electric foil-assisted ferry on the East River, traveling between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

New York is making noise about going quiet on the East River with a ferry service that is electric with foil assist. Partnering with the Swedish company Green City Ferries AB (GCF), New York Cruise Lines (NYCL)—parent of Circle Line Cruises and New York Water Taxi—announced its intent to launch the city’s first high-speed, zero-emission low-wake ferry. The vessel will operate under the banner of New York Water Taxi but won’t shuttle regular passengers. Instead, it will operate for the academic medical center NYU Langone Health, running between Manhattan’s East Side and Sunset Park, Brooklyn. “It is about a nine nautical mile route that transports employees of the hospital between two of their primary locations,” explained Craig Kanarick, CEO of NYCL. “Currently we run diesel ferries that depart every half hour, and we’re pretty sure we can keep the same schedule. As we learn more about the performance of the vessel, we’ll be able to fine-tune the configuration. So I can’t really tell you, for example, exactly how many [battery] cells we’ll use or what speed we’re going to travel at. Obviously, it’s a foil-assisted catamaran, so it wants to be cruising at a certain speed.”

If successful, this project might be in service before another foiling-ferry scheme currently under development in the Puget Sound region in Washington State, involving Glosten and Bieker Boats (see “A Foiling Ferry for Puget Sound,” PBB No. 189, page 12).

Electric, Foil-Assist and Carbon Construction

The ferry NYCL intends to run is a Beluga24 (78.7′ ) foil-assisted electric catamaran, developed by GCF in Stockholm, Sweden, where the first vessel of this kind is scheduled to run in the summer of 2024. The catamaran reaches top speeds of up to 35 knots (light ship) and a cruising speed of 28 knots, according to Hans Thornell, chairman of GCF. It has a capacity of 147 passengers and 28 bicycles and is built from epoxy-infused carbon fiber over PVC core. To reduce wake, the ferry will be fitted with a horizontal carbon fiber foil with a titanium-reinforced leading edge. The foil extends nearly across the entire beam amidships and is intended to carry about 40% of the vessel’s displacement weight at cruising speed. Other equipment includes a drive-train from BAE Systems, power management system and 758-kWh lithium titanium oxide (LTO) batteries, and four 310-kW Hamilton waterjets. The Beluga24’s displacement ranges from 42 tons (light ship) to 55 tons fully loaded.


Front view of the 147-passenger Beluga24 catamaran built by Green City Ferries in Stockholm, Sweden. Not shown is the submerged hydrofoil across nearly the entire beam of the vessel that will bear about 40% of the displacement.

The electric version of the Beluga24 (the GCF website promises a hydrogen version as well) has a range of 16 nautical miles, meaning it must recharge rapidly at both turn-around points, hence the use of LTO batteries, which require shorter charging cycles but also have modest energy density compared to some new battery chemistries. Charging details will have to be worked out, Kanarick said, depending on negotiations with the utilities that distribute power at both ends of the route. Thornell estimated that a 2.4 MW charging station could supply 80% of the battery pack’s capacity in 15 minutes.

The joint press release also said, “This collaboration will result in the first high-speed zero-emissions electric ferry manufactured in the United States, fostering domestic job opportunities and economic growth in the shipbuilding industry.” Kanarick declined to name a potential builder but emphasized, “The Jones Act requires that the vessel be constructed in the United States. I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not going to go into too many details, but obviously it’s more nuanced a law than that in terms of what defines being constructed in the United States. But it just seems that Scandinavia was where most of the advanced development is happening.” He did not elaborate on financial terms, except to state, “This is a fairly standard boat purchase.”

Collateral Benefits

Thornell said that the Beluga24 could save as much as 1,800 metric tons of CO2 emissions per annum when compared to a diesel-powered ferry of similar design and size running the same route. No word on a life cycle analysis quantifying the carbon footprint of a Beluga24’s construction, but Kanarick cited savings at the pump and other collateral benefits: “If you want to talk about economics, the cost of diesel has gone up so much in the last year and a half, and it doesn’t show any signs of reversing. On top of the environmental savings, there seems to be a clear savings in the cost of energy itself, [and] we are reducing noise pollution. Just eliminating [combustion] engines from the vessel means that repair and maintenance will be much less expensive. Even lifting the boat will be easier—it’s carbon fiber and seven tons lighter than an aluminum version. That’s a significant savings in weight, so we expect that there’s going to be savings all around.”

About the useful service life of the new electric ferry or how quickly it might replace some of his company’s diesel-powered ferries built by Derecktor and Gladding-Hearn, Kanarick said, “I can’t tell you how long it is going to last, 10 or 20 years? Even if I try to calculate how many [charge] cycles the battery is going to survive, we won’t know until the battery is used and degraded.”

In his estimation, LTO batteries have outperformed estimates for life expectancies, which, if true, would bode well for the Beluga24. Aside from CO2 savings, battery emissions, charge cycles, and return on investment, there is some reputational benefit from early-adopter status that positions NYCL among the more innovative public transportation outfits in the U.S. “I just think we’re the ones who are bold enough to commit to doing this, but it’s something that our industry is moving towards,” Kanarick said. “In every aspect of the transportation business, there’s societal, ethical, and regulatory pressure to get rid of emissions.”


Candela, another Swedish manufacturer of electric foiling boats, announced plans to launch a fully foil-borne 30-passenger ferry for fast commuting in the Stockholm archipelago.

In related news, Candela, another Swedish manufacturer of electric foiling craft, announced a $20-million investment and plans to launch its P-12 30-passenger shuttle this summer. The press release claims its range is 60 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 27 knots and, compared to a diesel-powered vessel of similar size, a 97.5% reduction of CO2 emissions over a 30-year operational life cycle, including production and recycling after decommissioning.

Candela did not respond to queries for detailed vessel specifications and a breakdown of the declared environmental benefits.

New York Cruise Lines, 83 North River Piers West 43rd St. and 12th Ave., New York, NY 10036 USA, tel. 212–563–3200, www.nycl.com.

Green City Ferries AB, Skeppsbron 10, 111 30 Stockholm, Sweden, tel. +46 73 508 85 56