Trips across Lyttelton Harbour could become a lot more environmentally friendly if a battery electric ferry comes on board.

Black Cat Cruises, which has been operating the Diamond Harbour Ferry service since 2000, is investigating buying a battery electric vessel to replace their current Black Diamond ferry, which is 18 years old.

Black Cat Cruises Chief Executive Paul Milligan says the service is growing in popularity and a larger vessel is needed. The company is always looking for ways to minimise their impact on the environment and it’s excited about investigating the possibility of an electric ferry.

“The relative short trip times of the Diamond Harbour Ferry Service and the access to charging at the Lyttelton Port end make it the ideal ferry to further develop and test marine battery electric technology. We look forward to bringing the next generation in passenger ferry travel to Lyttelton Harbour in 2021.

“A fully electric, zero exhaust emission vessel would not only be good for the environment through the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, but also reduced engine noise for the marine mammals in the harbour.”

Early investigations suggest that using two 250 kW electric motors would reduce greenhouse emissions from the ferry by about 344 tonnes per year.

A detailed feasibility study is planned for completion by early next year and if everything goes to plan, a full battery electric ferry could be sailing between Lyttelton and Diamond Harbour early in 2021.

The Council will provide a $45,000 grant towards the purchase of Black Cat’s battery electric ferry through the Innovation and Sustainable Development Fund.  EECA will be providing $200,000 towards the project.

Kevin Crutchley, the Council’s Resource Efficiency Manager, says the project aligns well with the Council's goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from Christchurch's transport. 

“Transportation represents around 53 per cent of Christchurch’s greenhouse gas emissions and this innovative project is another example of how Christchurch organisations are working together on practical ways to reduce these emissions,” Mr Crutchley says.

Other examples include the battery electric bus service that Red Bus launched in July this year, the battery electric car sharing service Yoogo Share, the roll-out of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles across the city, and the launch of Take Charge Christchurch.

He says battery electric vessels are a new, innovative technology in New Zealand. “Having a zero exhaust emission ferry operating on Lyttelton Harbour will demonstrate this exciting new technology to both the public and to the marine industry.”

Christchurch won the 2019 Most EV Friendly Town of the Year Award, the second time it has won this award.