Washington State Ferries the largest U.S. ferry system by ridership, carrying more than 17 million people last year and about 24 million annually pre-pandemic — is working to shift to a zero-emissions fleet by 2050.

"We are leading America in this revolution," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in September at a meeting to discuss the initiative's progress.

Work began about two months ago to convert the first of Washington's ferries to hybrid-electric power, with two more conversions planned through 2025.

The retrofitted ferries will be able to operate on battery-electric power much of the time.

 Once the state starts adding electric charging stations to its terminals in 2026, these ferries will be able to operate "in full battery-only mode," program administrator Matt von Ruden said.

In Washington state and nationwide, the transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, which drive climate change.

Electrifying ferries — and eventually, commercial shipping — is an essential step toward reducing the country's carbon footprint, state officials say.

 Washington's ferry system is the biggest polluter among the state's agencies, producing roughly 180,000 metric tons of emissions in 2019 and consuming about 19 million gallons of diesel fuel per year.

The agency plans to electrify eight of its 10 ferry routes over the next 14 years, which requires building 16 new hybrid-electric ferries.

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