Designer vessels for quick, flexible transportation could soon be coming to a river in your city. A sailing ace and a pro surfer have developed SeaBubbles – eco-friendly water taxis that you can order via app. First stop: Paris.
Crossing the river in a small capsule – is that how we’ll soon use our waterways for everyday commuting?
A former world-class surfer and a seasoned sailing pro have made it their mission to pursue this vision. With SeaBubbles, Swede Anders Bringdal and his French colleague Alain Thébault are trying to establish small, 4-meter-long and 2-meter-wide vessels as regular modes of transport.
Their ingenious “bubbles” are powered by eco-friendly, locally produced electricity and designed to cross major urban rivers like the Seine or Thames. The result is a new take on water taxis – hailed by passengers via app.
“To be honest, this idea only took shape because Alain’s daughters told him he should do something useful with his expertise for a change,” reveals a laughing Anders Bringdal.
Bringdal and Thébault know each other from pro water sports: Bringdal was part of the Hydroptère’s crew – the ship Thébault sailed from one speed record to the next in 2009.
Water taxis on the Seine
Back then, Thébault’s yacht was whizzing across the waves at top speeds exceeding 100 km/h, helped by a technology that also makes the duo’s new SeaBubbles surprisingly fast and efficient: so-called hydrofoils, i. e. small wings or airfoils attached to the hull.
These foils are designed to increase buoyancy with rising velocity – when the vessel speeds up, they lift it almost entirely out of the water. The result: less friction and thus more efficient propulsion. Naturally, the SeaBubbles won’t reach racing speed: While design limits suggest up to 50 km/h, the official speed limit on the Seine is 10 knots – around 18 km/h.
After initial testing with several models and prototypes, the SeaBubbles masterminds plan to publicly debut their brainchild this summer on the River Seine. Their goal: regular operations of an entire SeaBubbles fleet in Paris by 2018.
Making waves with aviation technology
“Due to existing regulations, this will probably involve a chauffeur, but the SeaBubbles are also designed for autonomous operation,” adds Bringdal. The dynamic development team includes the architect of Thébault’s record-breaking yacht, while former aviation engineers provide valuable consulting experience.
Also on board and proof that this is not just another garage-based tinkering experiment: ex-Airbus CEO Philippe Camus.
“The Hudson River’s current is so strong that we could even use it to generate all the necessary energy via generators on the piers,” he enthuses and adds: “It’s extremely satisfying to work on something that’s not just a toy, but really has a sense and purpose.”