No waves, no emissions, no noise is how sailor Alain Thébault sums up his invention, the Sea Bubble, a small electric taxi boat that promises to revolutionise urban transport by using rivers in cities in order to decongest streets and boulevards from vehicles. The objective: getting rid of traffic jams and reducing pollution.
Taxi boats in Paris
What was, until now, a fanciful project, only viable in the mind of its designer, is now becoming a reality with service scheduled to start in the coming spring. The first Bubbles will be circulating on the Seine, in Paris. The sailor’s start-up, which consulted with the Paris City Council regarding the authorised speed of navigation, was successful in its bid and the electric taxis flying over the water will be authorised to sail at 25 knots, i.e. 46 km/h, a higher average speed than that of road vehicles in Paris.
The boat that makes no waves
Measuring four metres in length and two metres in width, the electric propulsion vehicle resembles a car of the future with its five-seat cockpit (four passengers, one driver), its headlights and its “butterfly”-style doors on the sides. “It is a mix of a car, a boat and a plane”, says Alain Thébault. Inspired by the hydrofoil, the flying trimaran that he designed a few years ago, the small boat sails 50cm above the water’s surface thanks to its foils, submerged fibreglass arches, which enable it to avoid the resistance of lapping waves. This system enables the boat to navigate without experiencing the bumps usually felt on the water, all in quasi-religious silence.
Combinations of high-performance and high-tech materials
About the size of an average car and weighing in at 1050 kg, the hull, foils and doors of the Sea Bubble are designed using composite materials composed of fibreglass and carbon fibre impregnated in an epoxy resin. The portholes are made from Shield Up PMMA: high-tech materials that are both strong and lightweight.
Pending their maiden voyage and seeing them sail/fly over the Seine in a few months’ time, the Sea Bubbles already have imitators: several countries, including Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway, and cities such as New York, San Francisco and Dubai have already shown an interest in this new form of urban transportation using electric propulsion which is environmentally-friendly, quick and silent. The Sea Bubble may just be the future of mobility!