SWITCH Maritime LLC, a U.S.-based firm specializing in electrified, zero-emission ferries utilizing battery and hydrogen fuel cell technology, has secured $10 million in a Series A funding round led by Nexus Development Capital. The funds will be used to expand its fleet. Established in 2018 by a team of experienced leaders in maritime energy transition, SWITCH aims to facilitate the transition for private and public municipal ferry operators in replacing carbon-intensive, diesel-powered fleets, thereby lowering operating and fueling expenses throughout the vessels’ lifetimes.
With the nearly 1,000 vessels in the U.S. fleet moving a total of 100+ million passengers and 25+ million vehicles annually, ferries serve as a vital means of transportation for urban and rural communities alike across the country. While an important mode of transit, ferries also represent a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and particulate matter which negatively impact the air quality and health outcomes for local communities. The aging ferry fleets in the US burn tens of millions of gallons of diesel each year, and each diesel-burning ferry is a candidate for being converted or displaced with a low- or zero-emissions vessel.
SWITCH’s recent fundraise comes on the back of the completion of its flagship zero-emission vessel, Sea Change, which will operate as part of the public Water Emergency Transportation Authority’s (WETA) SF Bay Ferry fleet. The new 75-passenger ferry uses hydrogen fuel cells to produce electricity to power electric motors for distances up to 300 nautical miles, and speeds up to 15 knots, with the added benefits of no exhaust smoke and very little vibration and noise. While the only emission is pure water vapor, this technology allows for new ferries to have the same performance capabilities as diesel-powered vessels, and without the need for installing large-scale battery charging infrastructure on the shore.
“Nexus Development Capital is committed to helping companies bridge the gap between project conception and implementation by working together to take nascent technologies to market,” said Nexus Development Capital CEO, Josh Kaufman. “SWITCH is filling a huge market gap in decarbonizing the maritime industry, and we’re excited to work together to bring carbon-free sea transport to the US.”
As states like California begin to implement stringent emissions regulations and reporting requirements for commercial harbor craft (including ferries), vessel operators are becoming faced with the reality that they need to modernize and decarbonize their aging fleets, often without the resources to successfully make the transition. SWITCH’s model addresses the complex, resource-intensive process of technology integration, vessel construction and regulatory approvals for zero-emission vessels and offers them a painless path to a carbon-neutral, compliant fleet.
Specifically, SWITCH provides operators with three key avenues of support: (1) vessel design, financing, and construction, (2) short- and long-term vessel lease options, alleviating large upfront capital expenditures, and (3) pre-packaged carbon-neutral fueling or charging infrastructure solutions. These baseline services can be complemented by grant application writing and tax incentive administration, preventative & unplanned maintenance of new power systems onboard, management of all necessary permitting and crew training as well as next-generation carbon management and reporting.
“Our objective is to take the stress out of the energy transition for ferry operators,” says Pace Ralli, CEO of SWITCH Maritime. “Everyone is under a lot of pressure to navigate the rapidly evolving technology and regulatory landscape, and without simple pre-packaged solutions that can be difficult. At SWITCH, we’re excited to help make that transition easier, achieving important emissions reductions along the way.”
Having received regulatory approval in 2022 from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) for hydrogen powertrain and storage systems, Sea Change represents the culmination of years of cooperation with the USCG focused on safely integrating hydrogen and electric powertrain systems on passenger vessels and paves the path for SWITCH’s fleet expansion plans. Establishing a regulatory framework for this technology unlocks the possibility of progressing to larger ferry designs capable of operating at higher speeds on longer routes.
SWITCH is actively working on additional expansion designs for 150-, 300- and 450-passenger zero-emission ferries, leveraging the lessons learned from its flagship vessel and is ready to grow its fleet in key ferry markets across the US.
SOURCE: SWITCH Maritime