GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Mackinac Island Ferry Company is going electric. The company, previously known as Star Line, has announced that the Chippewa will be the first Mackinac ferry to go electric – replacing two diesel engines with two electric propulsion motors.
The change will be made as part of a partnership with Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, which is chipping in $3.06 million — approximately half the cost of the switch. The project also includes infrastructure upgrades at the Mackinaw City ferry dock and ports on Mackinac Island and St. Ignace.
The grant is a part of the state’s MI Healthy Climate Plan to make Michigan a carbon-neutral state by 2050.
“We are continuing to make investments to lead the future of mobility and electrification, so we can grow our economy, create good-paying jobs and lower energy costs for families and businesses. Our mobility leadership must extend from electric cars and buses on the road to industrial power and watercraft, too,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a release.
By replacing the two diesel engines that were installed in 1988, EGLE expects the boat will eliminate more than 14,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide and 887 metric tons of nitrogen oxide that would have been generated over the remainder of the boat’s lifetime.
Work on the engine replacement will start immediately. It is a step in an overhaul plan that will “redesign and modernize the vessel’s hull and appearance.” The entire project is expected to take two to three years.
The Chippewa will serve as a pilot project for EGLE and the Mackinac Economic Alliance, with the plan to convert all 28 Mackinac Island ferries to electric propulsion in the coming years.
“This project is a first critical step in the strategy to upgrade and modernize marine transportation in the Straits of Mackinac,” MEA Director Chris Byrnes stated, noting that Mackinac Island is already famous for looking to alternative modes of transportation.
Ferries are the primary method of transport to and from Mackinac Island, serving approximately 750,000 visitors each year and about 500 year-round island residents. According to EGLE, during peak months, ferries make up to 125 round trips each day.