The world's first low-carbon, battery-powered passenger ferries are being built on the banks of the Clyde.
Described as the first seagoing hybrid ferries
in the world, the two small roll-on roll-off ferries will carry holidaymakers, islanders and vehicles across the waters around Skye
and the Inner Hebrides
In two years, one of vessels is due to sail from Sconser, on Skye, to the sparsely populated island of Raasay using the type of diesel-electric hybrid technology that is becoming popular in cars. The ferries, which will be 43.5 metres (142 feet) long, will be equipped with highly efficient diesel generators that will power electric propulsion motors.
Besides this, batteries aboard each boat will provide power to the propulsion units, reducing fuel use by at least 20 per cent. The batteries will be recharged while the vessels are moored overnight.
The Scottish Government has lent Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited £20 million to build the vessels.
is expected to cut carbon emissions, reduce fuel consumption and also reduce air pollution.
Ferguson Shipbuilders at Port Glasgow is building the ferries. They will be the first commercial vessels to be built at the Scottish shipbuilding site for four years.
The boats, to be operated by the ferry firm Caledonian Macbrayne, will carry up to 150 passengers and accommodate about 23 cars or two HGVs. The route for the second vessel has yet to be decided.
The shipping industry is still permitted to use highly polluting diesel, and to sidestep strict air quality and emissions rules followed onshore. But it is under intense pressure to use much cleaner fuels and more efficient engines.
The Committee on Climate Change, an independent body that advises the Government on setting carbon budgets, has said shipping should be included in the UK's climate targets, which aim to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.
David Kennedy, the committee's chief executive, said: "Shipping could account for up to 10 per cent of emissions allowed under the 2050 target, and that says this is a material issue."
The Scottish Government and transport sector have only recently begun using hybrid technologies for public transport. Energy experts have stressed that converting commercial, farming and industrial vehicles to low carbon technology
will be crucial in meeting climate targets.
Alex Neil, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for infrastructure, said: "The technology will be cleaner, quieter and cheaper to operate and maintain than ever before. It will help Scotland meet ambitious climate change targets, and it demonstrates the vast economic potential of developing green technology."
Stuart McMillan MSP, who grew up in Port Glasgow and whose father worked at Fergusons, said: "Mixing the traditional Clyde-built skills as well as newer green technologies shows that Port Glasgow can once again be at the vanguard of the shipbuilding industry. These world-first vessels will prove that commercial shipbuilding on the Clyde is not over but can be the start of something bigger."
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