Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Michigan’s Mackinac Island Ferry to Switch to Electric Power

The Mackinac Island Ferry Co., formerly known as Star Line, will replace two diesel engines with electric propulsion motors on its Chippewa vessel, then will transition the rest of its seven steel vessels to all-electric.

(TNS) — A Mackinac Island ferry company is ditching diesel on one of its vessels and transitioning it to electric power, courtesy of a settlement with a foreign automaker, according to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

The Mackinac Island Ferry Co., formerly known as Star Line, will replace two 1988 diesel engines on its Chippewa ferry vessel with electric propulsion motors. Ferry Company owns the former Arnold Line Ferry fleet and Mackinac Marine Services shipyard.

The company plans to upgrade all of its seven steel vessels with electricity after the Chippewa is converted. EGLE plans to electrify all 28 Mackinac Island ferries and help develop a full-time, year-round shipbuilding industry in the straits region.

"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," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a Friday statement. "Our mobility leadership must extend from electric cars and buses on the road to industrial power and watercraft, too."

The Chippewa project is supported by a $3.06 million award from EGLE's Fuel Transformation Program, which is putting $30 million of the state's $64.8 million allocation of Volkswagen settlement funds toward upgrading diesel vehicles, vessels and equipment to be used with cleaner fuel. The grant will cover half of the cost of the electric motors as well as half the cost of installing 1.5 megawatts of electric infrastructure at the Mackinaw City ferry dock.

The Volkswagen money came in a 2017 settlement for $4.3 billion with the federal government for rigging hundreds of thousands of diesel cars to cheat U.S. emission standards. It is largest penalty levied on an automaker doing business in the United States. The German automaker admitted it programmed its diesel cars to trick emissions testers into believing the engines released far less pollution into the air than they actually do in violation of the federal Clean Air Act. In normal driving, regulators said the cars up to 40 times more smog-causing nitrogen oxide than the legal limit.

The state of Michigan received $64.8 million under the Volkswagen settlement, and the funds are supposed to be dedicated to reducing diesel emissions, especially nitrogen oxide and fine particulate matter.

The state's same fuel transformation grant program also awarded Sault Ste. Marie with $2.18 million to cover two-thirds of the cost of installing electric power at an international dock downstream of the Soo Locks. The power will come from nearly 50 percent renewable sources and will reduce vessels' idling time.

In 2020, Whitmer announced her ambitions to develop a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. She laid out the MI Healthy Climate plan last year.

As part of the plan, EGLE aims to transition all 138 Upper Great Lakes ships between 50 and 200 tons to electric or hybrid-electric power.

Michigan also is launching a grant program to speed up an electric boat charging network at Michigan marinas.

(c)2023 The Detroit News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Special Projects