New All-electric Niagara Falls Tour Ferries Enter Service
A pair of first-of-their-kind passenger vessels installed with all-electric propulsion will bring Niagara Falls sightseers to experience one of the wonders of the natural world undisturbed by exhaust fumes, engine noise or vibrations.
The zero-emissions ferries, named the James V. Glynn and the Nikola Tesla, respectively in honor of the Maid of the Mist chairman and the renowned energy pioneer – are the first all-electric vessels built in the U.S., with power drawn from a high-capacity battery pack supplied and integrated by ABB. In addition to batteries, ABB has supplied a comprehensive integrated power and propulsion solution for the newbuild vessels, including an offshore charging system, enabling sustainable operation with maximum reliability.
Approved to enter service on October 6, James V. Glynn and Nikola Tesla are each powered by a pair of battery packs providing 316 kWh total capacity divided across two catamaran hulls, offering a level of redundancy that helps to safeguard operations. The batteries allow the electric propulsion motors to reach an output of up to 400 kW, with the power setup controlled by ABB’s Power and Energy Management System. They are charged using locally produced hydroelectricity – ensuring that the energy cycle for the operation of the Maid of the Mist ferries is entirely emissions free – in a process that takes just seven minutes during disembarkation and boarding.
“Maid of the Mist has always evolved with the technology, and we are thrilled to open a new page in our company’s history, moving our fleet to zero-emission operation,” said Christopher M. Glynn, President of Maid of the Mist, the iconic boat tour operator that has navigated the waters below Niagara Falls since 1846. “Close collaboration with ABB has been instrumental in making this project a success, and we are proud of what we were able to accomplish together.”
"Maid of the Mist truly leads the way by building its new fleet with renewable electrical solutions and proving to the entire world that zero-emission transportation is achievable with today's technologies," said Juha Koskela, Division president, ABB Marine & Ports. "Much like Nikola Tesla, under the leadership of Christopher M. Glynn, Maid of the Mist is a trailblazer that is set to inspire many others to adopt sustainable technologies."
“As well as allowing passengers to enjoy the spectacular experience of Niagara Falls and safeguarding the environment, the vessels confirm growing acceptance of all-electric vessel propulsion,” Koskela added.
Having installed the ship-to-shore battery charging connection, ABB also supplied the Glynn and the Tesla with a comprehensive scope of electric, digital and connected solutions including switchboards, drives and the integrated control system, in addition to the ABB Ability Marine Remote Diagnostic System for monitoring and predictive maintenance.
The welded aluminum vessels will charge between every trip while passengers disembark and board. Shoreside charging will only take seven minutes, allowing the batteries to power the electric propulsion motors capable of a total 400 kW (563 HP) output. The power setup will be controlled by ABB’s integrated Power and Energy Management System (PEMS), which will optimize the energy use on board.
"The launch of the James V. Glynn and Nikola Tesla, the first passenger vessels of their kind in the United States, will markedly enhance the visitor experience, providing a smooth, quiet trip to and from the base of Niagara Falls," Glynn said. "With no engine noise, our guests will be amazed by the sounds of nature and the roar of the falls they will hear from the decks of our vessels."
"Niagara Falls is a wonder of the world unique to Western New York and Maid of the Mist has given people from all walks of life an up-close look at its majesty for more than 150 years," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "Having this natural wonder in our backyard means we have a special responsibility as its steward and protecting it for future generations. This new fleet of all-electric vessels will protect the health of our waterways and environment, and is another example of New York State building back better, smarter and greener."
New York State Parks and New York Power Authority collaborated with the Maid of the Mist operators and ABB to make the electrification of the boats a reality. NYPA is providing clean, renewable hydropower for the operation of the vessels and has provided technical support on the electrification process. NYPA is going to also provide ongoing monitoring of electricity usage for the boats to ensure they are being energy efficient and cost effective.
New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "New York State Parks is committed to executing Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's vision for protecting our environment and in making New York State the cleanest state in the nation. We also know that visitors feel good when they can do their part to protect our land and water while enjoying themselves. We thank the Maid of the Mist for their leadership in sustainable tourism."
Gil C. Quiniones, President and Chief Executive Officer at the NYPA, said, "The transportation sector currently generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. In order for us to meet the Governor's nation-leading target of a 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, we must take bold actions now. The electrification of these two brand-new tour boats sets the example that we can electrify our economy which is good for our communities, our health and our climate."
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During the Covid-19 global health crisis, the Maid of the Mist has implemented a number of operational changes to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, including limiting occupancy in all boats and elevators at 50% capacity; placing physical distancing markers throughout the facility and boats as a reminder to maintain social distance; placing directional arrows and signage to remind visitors to maintain social distancing while guiding them in a way that minimizes contact with others; requiring all visitors to wear a face covering as a condition of admission; enhanced cleaning; and health screenings for all staff.
The Maid of the Mist first launched in 1846, making it one of North America's longest running tourist attractions. Maid of the Mist vessels have been continuously operating tours to the base of Niagara Falls for 134 consecutive years, providing guests from around the world with an iconic experience. James V. Glynn joined Maid of the Mist in 1950 as a ticket seller and purchased the company in 1971. Under his leadership and that of current president Christopher M. Glynn, Maid of the Mist has expanded operations, now attracting more than 1.6 million guests each season.
In 2012 Maid of the Mist faced closure in the absence of storage space for its boats on the New York side of the river. Governor Cuomo struck a deal to keep the boats running and produce increased revenues for Niagara Falls State Park. The Maid of the Mist Corporation agreed to invest $32 million in the former Schoellkopf Power Station site near the falls, in the Cataract City, to make it suitable for the winter storage and maintenance of its boats. The New York Power Authority owns the land at this site. NYPA provided clearance and technical support that enabled the boat operator to utilize the former Schoellkopf site for its boat launch and operations center. The new site replaced the previous winter storage location near the base of the Horseshoe Falls in Ontario. Also, under the memorandum, the company agreed to increase its license payments to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, totaling $105 million over 30 years - three times the revenues that were projected for the 30-year period when a contract was initially approved in 2002.
The new Maid of the Mist vessels build on a $70 million revitalization of Niagara Falls State Park. The initiative has renewed the park's major viewing areas including Luna Island, Prospect Point, Lower Grove, Three Sisters Islands, North Shoreline Trail, Luna Bridge, and Terrapin Point with new pedestrian walkways, enhanced landscaping and signage, new benches, lighting and railings.