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Thailand's Groundbreaking Electric Ferry Fleet Enters Service

thailand ferries
Image courtesy Torqueedo

By Ankur Kundu 12-06-2020 02:19:00

Electric cars and buses are making inroads in multiple markets, from California to Norway to China. In Thailand, to combat increasing smog, the next wave of electric vehicles will navigate waterways instead of highways.

Last week, the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) introduced its new fleet of electric commuter ferries into service. Bangkok is one of the most congested cities in Asia, and this move aims to bring clean emissions-free passenger transport to the South Asian country.

There had been a prototype vessel operating in Bangkok for the last two years, serving the city’s commuters. Seven new, fully electric vessels will now join the fleet.

The MariArt Shipyard has repowered these 48-foot fiberglass ferry boats, replacing their 200-horsepower diesel engines with twin Torqeedo Cruise 10 kW electric outboards, twelve large lithium batteries and four fast chargers.

 The 30-passenger, zero-emission water taxis are part of a fleet of ferries operated by BMA's Enterprise Krungthep Thanakom Company (KT BMA). They will cover a five-kilometer express ferry route with departures every 15 minutes.

“This is an important achievement for the city of Bangkok and a key part of our Thailand 4.0 Smart City vision for an integrated clean, green public transportation system including bus, rail, and waterways,” said KT BMA's Deputy Managing Director, Dr Ekarin Vasanasong.

Bangkok's transport sector contributes to a quarter of Bangkok's carbon emissions, which is much higher than the global average. On top of that, the city's schools were temporarily closed last year due to extremely poor air quality.

Plus, Bangkok has a severe traffic problem, which means that the electric ferries address two of the city's worst woes. “Moving passengers from roads to the waterways reduces congestion and, since the boats are 100 percent emission-free, they don't contribute to harmful local air pollution," said Dr. Michael Rummel, Torqeedo's managing director.

Ankur Kundu is a trainee marine engineer at India's well-known Marine Engineering and Research Institute (MERI) as well as a freelance maritime journalist.