A new concept of water taxi designed to operate on rivers has been developed in France. Called the Sea Bubble to reflect its shape this new water taxi is powered by electric thrusters and uses hydrofoils to reduce the power requirements, allowing the Sea Bubble to operate at speeds up to 15 knots.
The futuristic egg-shaped river shuttles are the creation of French yachtsman Alain Thébault and Swedish windsurfer Anders Bringdal, and the current plans suggest that this new water taxi concept could be tried out on the River Seine in Paris. The water taxi system is proving attractive because of its zero emission profile in this environmentally conscious city. “The Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo helped the start-up to get off the ground and the team is repaying that favour by testing them out on the Seine,” Mr Thébault said. The twin electric thrusters are attached to the rear foil and it is planned that they will be supplied with power largely generated from solar panels with battery back-up.
The Sea Bubble is constructed from a foam sandwich material using a combination of composites and high-density foam. There are U-shaped foils extending down from the front and back of the passenger ‘bubble’ which help to reduce drag and raise the taxi up in the water to allow it to cope with small waves and to give a smooth ride.
The passenger compartment has extensive window areas and is designed to carry 5 people is relative comfort. The Sea Bubble team has developed the design of land stations for these taxis where several of the taxis can dock and be available for passengers at short notice. One possibility here is to use the river current to turn tidal turbines for the power supply for the Sea Bubble charging.
The prototype of the Sea Bubble should be ready for testing early in 2017 and it is planned to hold a public demonstration of the concept in the spring of 2017 on the River Seine. “Once we have gone beyond the prototype and have fully developed the Sea Bubble, we aim to use Paris as the first Sea Bubble taxi operation but there are possibilities for Sea Bubble operations in many parts of the world with London and Geneva on the list.” said Alain Thébault.
So far there has been an investment of around €1/2 million in the Sea Bubble project. “We can see enormous potential for this concept in many parts of the world but we are taking no orders at the moment.” said Thébault. “We first have to finish the prototype.”
“We think that there is the possibility that the Sea Bubble may eventually become driverless.” said Thébault. “I hope that eventually Sea Bubbles will be able to be hailed on apps such as Uber, and I estimate that fares in Paris will be around €10 if and when the project gets the final green light.