Flying water taxis to beat traffic in Paris and London


‘Flying’ water taxis powered by river currents could be tested on the Thames in London later this year. The electric boats, called SeaBubbles, use hydrofoils to lift them out the water, reducing the drag to allow them to reach speed of up to 25 knots and creating a comfortable ride likened to a “magic carpet”.

They come with a specially designed dock with several turbines in the water. The idea is that these and solar panels will supply all the electricity required to run the boats, so they are completely “off grid”.

Five SeaBubbles are due to start a trial on the River Seine in Paris this summer. The Paris-based company behind the boats, founded by record-breaking sailors Alain Thebault and Anders Bringdal, has also had discussions about introducing them in the United States and has been invited for talks with the London mayor’s office.

Bringdal told the Independent the SeaBubble was more efficient than traditional boats because of the hydrofoils. “Instead of pushing the water, we cut it, so you don’t leave any wa ke,” he said. “As you lift the hull out of the water you lose 40% of the drag. With our system, with the water turbines below the docks, we can create the energy we need to operate the fleet. The idea is to create as much energy as we can from solar or hydro.

“The (river) currents are 24 hours, and we will store the energy in ‘power walls’ (batteries) to run the taxis for 12 to 15 hours, depending on the power of the river and the size of the turbines. Not in every place but in some places. “(The intention) is to try to be as off the grid as much as we can. I would hope we would be able to do something in London in 2017, getting some boats over and doing a little demonstration would be very good.” Bringdal, a former professional windsurfer who broke a yachting world speed record with Thebault in 2009 using a hydrofoil yacht, said the first full-scale SeaBubble should be ready in the next few weeks. “Our goal is building a really easy boat -easy to build and easy to use, without any complicated stuff,” he said.

The SeaBubble’s website points out that most of the world’s big cities are on a river or the coast. “Cities are trying to decrease the pollution. Such efforts include the promotion of self-serve electric vehicles, greener public transportation vehicles etc,” it says. “Our vision is to be a fun green mode of transport that answers the needs in the ever-congested public transport systems.”

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