Solar ferry on SF Bay – efficiency is easy

A hybrid solar/diesel ferry made by an Australian company called “Solar Sailor” has been chosen to shuttle visitors to the Alcatraz national park. The ferry is twice as fuel-efficient as typical diesel ferries. They cost about $5 million, or about twice as much as traditional ferries. The vendor says that the system would save $6 million over the 15 year life span of the vehicle, so 7 year payback period, not counting the value of reduced pollution and noise.
This is the first hybrid ferry in use in the US, ever. Meanwhile, it costs $5-10k to retrofit a Prius to get 100mpg. Today, the plugin hybrid technology is costly enough to be more of a status symbol than a cost-savings (if plugin hybrids displace some sportscars as status symbols, it’s a non-problem). Putting the technology in production will help it get cheaper. It’s possible to get more energy-efficient by a factor of lots, the question is how long we have for the transition.