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First-of-its-Kind Electric Tugboat to Launch in the U.S.

Posted on May 15, 2024

America’s first all-electric tugboat is ready to set sail. According to reports, the new model dubbed the eWolf, is part of an ambitious effort to help decarbonize the nation’s ports by removing smog-spewing diesel from heavy equipment. With the help of $3 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act tapped for zero-emission infrastructure and port equipment investments, eWolf is taking center stage to show the possibilities of this exciting technology.

According to the chairman of the port of San Diego, the two activities that cause the most emissions are cranes and tug operations, but the latter poses inherent challenges when it comes to electrification. That’s because they have massive power requirements but very little space for batteries.

Luckily, the new tug project leveraged industry experts — including electrification and automation company ABB — to help make it work. ABB was responsible for delivering an “integrated electric propulsion system and advanced vessel control technology,” which works by improving emissions but also offering the capability to respond quickly to fast-changing load requirements. When docked, the tug can be plugged in for quick recharging between jobs.

Ultimately, this eWolf is said to be less costly to operate and maintain compared to the diesel versions. This is partly due to a cost advantage of electricity over diesel in some places but also because of the technology itself: because the tug primarily relies on electronic and computer-based systems, there are fewer moving mechanical parts to wear out.

Teresa Bui, the state policy director for Pacific Environment, an advocacy group, called the new tug “a great proof of concept” but also evidence that California was “leading the way on cleaning up harbor craft.”


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