Six years on, the first pilot line of zero-emission water taxis tested the water on Lake Annecy this summer, operated by SeaBubbles Mobility Solutions.
Innovation for sustainable transportation
Alain Thébault, creator of the Hydroptère, is no longer at the helm of this project, so SeaBubbles, a start-up specialising in carbon-free waterborne transport, has taken the reins. After several years of research, technological innovation and a number of prototypes, “the Bubble”, a futuristic 5-seater flying water taxi, has been shuttling around the lake in Haute-Savoie all summer. Measuring 5 metres long and 2.5 metres wide, once it reaches six knots (11 km/hour), it rises above the water in just 3 seconds and is 100% battery-powered. Its foils, which are best described as submerged fibreglass arches, reduce displacement resistance as well as water friction on the hull. By avoiding waves and ripples, the Bubble uses 40% less energy than a conventional electric boat.
High-tech materials for futuristic waterborne transportation
The Sea Bubble is roughly the size of a car, and its hull, doors and three foils are made from composite materials based on fibreglass and carbon fibre impregnated in epoxy resin. The windows are made from ShieldUp PMMA, a high-tech material that’s both lightweight and strong.
The Bubble water taxi comes in two styles: one has a fully enclosed “cockpit” for travelling in all weather, and the other has an open top, offering a panoramic view.
A carbon-free, water-based transport solution
Fast, comfortable and completely silent, the Bubble runs on the energy provides from the docking station and emits no CO2. This makes for an attractive ecological solution and an alternative form of sustainable transport in protected areas. By offering eight rotations a day for two months, Lake Annecy’s summer shuttle service saved 100 tonnes of C02 compared to conventional boats.
Alongside the Bubble, the start-up has also developed a larger model called “Smart Bubble”. This 8- to 12-seater water taxi is the most innovative model in the range, and it will use a hybrid system with a battery bank and a hydrogen fuel cell. It’s currently in its final testing phase and is due to make its first trip in the coming months.
“SeaBubbles’s ‘zero-emission, zero-waves, zero-noise’ flying taxis are as pleasant for passengers as they are environmentally friendly, so it’s no surprise that the start-up has received a number of requests from various urban areas and is in talks with customers in the Middle East, the Netherlands and the United States,” says Virginie Seurat, SeaBubbles’s Managing Director. Capable of navigating rivers or lakes, SeaBubbles has a huge appeal, both to the mass market and the luxury market.