Star Line Ferry on Lake Huron. Getty

The long reach of the wide-ranging Volkswagen Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal has finally reached the water. This month, Michigan announced it would receive about $3 million to replace the diesel-powered engines on an island ferry that transports people to an island that doesn’t allow cars. The total cost of the project will be about $6 million, according to officials. The Mackinac Island Ferry Company’s Star Line Chippewa ferry will use the money to replace two 1988 diesel engines with electric motors. The swap is estimated to save 14,152 metric tons of carbon dioxide and 887 metric tons of nitrogen oxide over the boat’s life.

“This project is a first critical step in the strategy to upgrade and modernize marine transportation in the Straits of Mackinac,” Mackinac Economic Alliance Director Chris Byrnes said in a statement. “Of course, Mackinac Island is famous for alternative modes of transportation, as cars are not allowed on the island. Everyone walks, rides bikes or horses and, of course, ferry boats, so the island is already a Michigan leader in alternative forms of transportation.”

The ferries to Mackinac Island are the primary means of transportation for the island’s 500 permanent residents, which is located on the northern tip of Michigan between the upper and lower peninsulas of the state. The island is in the Straits of Mackinac, in Lake Huron, and near Lake Michigan. The ferries serve roughly 750,000 people each year as a popular tourist attraction, with more than 100 round trips daily. 

The Chippewa’s electric propulsion is the first of its kind for ferries. Eventually, the Mackinac Island Ferry Company plans to upgrade all seven of its ferries to fully electric or hybrid propulsion in the coming years. The 84-foot Chippewa was built in 1962 and carries up to 300 passengers.

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