NY Announces Zero-emissions Retrofit Project

By Eric Haun
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Photo: Elco Motor Yachts

New York’s Governor Cuomo announces retrofitted electric canal boat to demonstrate benefits of no-emission engine; NYSERDA, NYSDOT partnership with Canal Corp. replaces diesel engine with electric motor

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of an all-electric dredge tender workboat on the Erie Canal in the Utica area. The project is the result of a partnership with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). Additionally, the New York State Canal Corporation collaborated with Yorkville-based New West Technologies, LLC, in order to determine how best to transition the State’s workboat fleet to a cleaner propulsion system. The boat’s new electric motor was designed by Elco Motor Yachts, LLC, of Athens, New York.

“By partnering with the private sector, New York State is transforming an 86-year old tug boat into a cleaner, greener and more modern zero-emission vehicle,” Governor Cuomo said. “Projects like this demonstrate our commitment to protecting the environment and show how this continued dedication is laying the groundwork for a clean energy economy of tomorrow.”

The project makes use of a 1928 tug boat, now used as a dredge tender, for removing buoys and other canal work. Previously running off a 1980s-era diesel engine, the boat is now powered by a battery-powered all-electric powertrain system. The all-electric system eliminates exhaust emissions and the potential for fuel spills, while lowering maintenance costs and reducing noise. The result is a more environmentally- and economically-sustainable solution.

“This project is one example of our work to promote cleaner transportation resources,” said Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation Chairman Howard P. Milstein. “We have the great privilege and responsibility of maintaining one of our nation’s premier engineering marvels, and a large part of that responsibility is respecting the environment around the canal system. By utilizing green technologies, we will be able to reduce emissions and help make New York’s canal corridor cleaner and more beautiful.”

“Environmental Stewardship is one of our primary responsibilities at the Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation,” said Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation Executive Director Thomas J. Madison. “We will continue working to incorporate greener technologies into our operations while encouraging New Yorkers to follow suit. This will not only allow us to help make New York a cleaner place, but also grow the green jobs industry through these types of public-private partnerships.”

“We are proud to help lead the charge towards the development and use of electric vehicles in New York State,” said Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. “With the help of our partners in the private sector, we will continue to find innovative ways of adapting our century-old infrastructure to provide cleaner and more efficient service to our customers and neighbors along New York’s Canal corridor.”

"This collaboration with Canal Corp. and NYSDOT supports Governor Cuomo's call to increase the use of zero-emission vehicles in the transportation sector, which is one of the largest consumers of fossil fuel," said NYSERDA President and Chief Executive Officer John B. Rhodes. "Encouraging the use of electric vehicles will not only provide environmental benefits but will stimulate economic activity as part of the State’s overall efforts to scale up the clean energy economy."

“This new electric boat will help reduce the carbon footprint of transportation in New York State, and the research associated with its use will help manufacturers refine and improve upon the existing technologies,” said NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald. “Governor Cuomo is leading the way in supporting the development of clean energy and is using that to improve our transportation system to support economic activity created by shipping and leisure travel on the New York State canal system.”

The Canal Corporation partnered with New West Technologies, LLC (New West), an engineering consulting firm from Yorkville, NY, to evaluate and help determine a clean propulsion transition path for its workboat fleet. The initial feasibility study completed through this partnership illustrated the lifecycle cost savings and considerable environmental improvements of the new power train in comparison to the Canal Corporation’s current fleet.

“New West Technologies is proud to partner with the New York State Canal Corporation to evaluate the electric boat’s performance and to help determine a clean propulsion transition path for its workboat fleet,” said Russell Owens, P.E. of New West Technologies. “The initial Phase 1 feasibility study validated the energy, economic, and environmental benefits of electric propulsion for Canal Corporation’s workboats. As we continue in the Phase 2 field demonstration, we look forward to continuing to work with Canal Corporation, Elco Motor Yachts, and our partners at the State to evaluate the tender’s operational and maintenance data to support the goal of transitioning the long-term sustainability of New York’s fleet.”

Additionally, New West will collect real-world data from both the all-electric boat and a standard diesel boat to analyze the real-world performance benefits for the Canal Corporation and other entities considering the use of all-electric or hybrid-electric marine powertrains.

The electric powertrain was developed and manufactured by Elco Motor Yachts, LLC (Elco), located in Athens, NY. Elco developed the system that tightly adapts two electric motors into a robust powertrain configuration that could be applied to the dredge tender. The electric powertrain is particularly impressive with its modular design. This design allows it to be easily configured for other dredge tender boats with more or less electric motor power and more or less battery capacity, as needed.

“Elco is proud to be a partner in this demonstration of electric propulsion on the historic Erie Canal,” said Elco President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Lamando. “Elco’s own history dates back to 1893 when its first electric boats shuttled more than one million passengers to and from the Chicago World’s Fair. Today, we are reinforcing our industry-leading position by propelling Tender 4 in an environmentally sustainable way using energy from New York’s electric grid. With Elco’s twin EP-10000 motors, the tender will now silently work with zero exhaust emissions and without contributing to water pollution. Elco electric propulsion systems also help save money in fuel and maintenance costs – a win for the Erie canal system waters, workers and taxpayers.”

“As the Erie Canal itself was started in the Greater Utica area, it is fitting that this groundbreaking initiative likewise has its start in Utica. Like Nano Utica, this partnership of public and private industry to create technological advances positions this area, and New York State, to be a leader in the development of advanced technologies. I applaud Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton and the other partners on this important announcement” said City of Utica Mayor Robert M. Palmieri.

"This is a great example of how, no matter how long something's been done one way, there's always an opportunity to do it a better way,” said Senator Joseph Griffo. “By converting this tug from diesel to electric, engineers are confident we'll save money and reduce the amount of harmful emissions we put into our air. If this proves cost effective, I'd love to see more Canal equipment converted in the future. I thank the Canal Corporation, the DOT & and the private sector engineers that collaborated on this powertrain system and brought it here to the Erie Canal."

“This project will serve as a very visible example of ways the state can significantly reduce the use of harmful emissions through the use of clean energy technology,” said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of Utica. “The Mohawk Valley has long been a center of creativity and new technology, and it is good to see the Canal Corporation partnering with a Mohawk Valley company, New West Technologies, for this innovative demonstration project that will bring environmental and economic benefits to the state.”

“When government and the private sector work collectively with an eye on innovation there is no limit to the possibility,” said County Executive Anthony Picente. “The achievements this project makes possible will help drive the clean energy industry here in Oneida County.”

The funding for the development of the all-electric dredge tender was made possible through the Integrating Mobility Strategies for a Sustainable Multi-Modal Transportation Network Program Opportunity Notice, a partnership between NYSERDA and DOT, to demonstrate underutilized technologies and approaches that improve the energy efficiency and emissions production in New York’s transportation and freight delivery system.

With this latest initiative, New York’s role as a leader and first mover in shaping the future of energy remains firmly in place. By developing innovative market solutions, the State is delivering on Governor Cuomo’s commitment to transform the energy industry into a more resilient, clean, cost-effective and dynamic system. Working with State, citizen and industry-stakeholders, the way of doing business in New York is moving to a more market-based, decentralized approach. This transition means preserving the environment, decreasing energy costs, and creating economic growth opportunities for current and future generations of New Yorkers. In advancing these new energy systems and solutions, New Yorkers will have improved energy affordability and efficiency without sacrificing the ability to live in a cleaner, resilient and more sustainable environment.

Governor Cuomo has been a leader in advancing zero emission vehicles as one way to achieve energy diversity, reduce pollution and create jobs. Just last month, New York State was joined by seven other states to unveil a plan to dramatically increase the number of clean vehicles on our roads. Under the Multi-State Zero-Emission Vehicles (ZEV) Action Plan, the states set a goal to have 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles in the U.S. by 2025.

  • New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

    New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

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