“You’ve got packed roads and empty waterways in a lot of cities - there’s an obvious opportunity..."
Yes, okay the Sea Bubble isn't a train or metro, but we just had to bring you this new concept of public transport about to be trialled in Paris along the River Seine. This new invention has been developed as a response to reduce CO2 emissions and provide alternative transport options for the French capital. Last year Paris' pollution levels dangerously peaked to become the world’s dirtiest air, beating other offenders like Beijing and Shanghai. And all going well, at the end of next summer, these futuristic flying pods will be able to travel at speeds of 30km/h and transport 5 passengers including a pilot along the River Seine. They are battery powered environmental vehicles and hover a few inches above the water with fares estimated to cost a very reasonable around €10.
The water taxi was designed by two entrepreneurs, French yachtsman Alain Thébault ( @ ) and Swedish windsurfer Anders Bringdal. In 2009 the pair designed a floating sailboat which broke previous record speeds. Using this as inspiration, the co-founders wanted to create an alternative mode of transport which was eco-friendly and fun. The design plans have been finalised and now they are going to bring the design to life. Thébault said in an interview with The Telegraph: “Once we have gone beyond the prototype and have fully developed the Sea Bubble, we might, after Paris, begin with London or Geneva.” The Sea Bubble ( @SeaBubbles ) was originally meant to be launched on London’s River Thames, but city leaders did not wish to cooperate with the project.
The solar-powered electric vehicle will be made of fibreglass and high-density foam. Foils fixed to the framework will reduce drag and allow the shuttle to hover above water. The Sea Bubble harbours many innovative features such as:
- Battery driven propulsion system with zero emissions.
- A take-off speed of 6-8 knots and can operate in the no wake zone.
- It will not generate waves at full speed nor erode river walls.
- Built from bio-degradable material.
- Vehicles will be silent and have a range of 80-100 km.
So far the technology has been supported by the founder of the drone-maker, Parrot SA, Partech Ventures and the French government-backed BPI fund. The entrepreneurs have also managed to secure €500,000 (£445,000) worth of investment to develop the prototype. Thébault explained his ambitions that “Next spring we will hold a public demonstration on the Seine in front of the National Assembly (parliament) in Paris with five Sea Bubbles.”
“You’ve got packed roads and empty waterways in a lot of cities - there’s an obvious opportunity... We want to build water taxis.” added Thebault in an interview with Bloomberg Technology.
What is next for the water taxi?
Whilst a lot of interest has been gaged across the world, many more opportunities lie ahead. The entrepreneurs believe there is huge scope for their new mode of transport because most cities are centred round a river or look onto the sea. New York officials have expressed an early interest in launching the flying taxis on the Hudson River with further plans to buy a 1,500 fleet for Florida.
Additionally, another round of funding will take place by the end of August next year to develop a taxi app and construct docking stations around the shuttle. The start-up has also reached out to Uber, a construction company Vinci SA and luxury goods maker LVMH to discuss new plans but nothing has yet been finalised.
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