This All-Electric Water Taxi Could Revolutionize Green Transportation

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May. 31 2019, Updated 11:29 a.m. ET

It could soon be just as easy to travel on water as it is to take an Uber through a busy downtown neighborhood. SeaBubbles, a French startup, has been trying out their electric hydrofoil water taxi with great results. Even more tests are happening over the Seine River in Paris as they prepare to launch the new taxi service.

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SeaBubbles was founded by Alain Thebault, who was the designer of Hydroptere, which is a hydrofoil yacht. As the name suggests, this substance is a foil that’s able to operate on top of water. It has the benefit of lifting the hull of a boat over the water in one of its operation modes, which generates faster speeds and lower drag.

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The difference with SeaBubbles comes in the 20 kilowatt-hour battery pack that’s equipped with dual 10-kilowatt electric motors. According to Electrek, that’s enough to last an hour in the water before needing to be charged again. It creates a unique way to get people around that efficiently uses energy and would be less taxing on the roads and environment.

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As you’d expect, they’ve been looking at deploying their new “Bubble Taxi” service in cities that are near bodies of water. They’ve launched prototypes in five areas, including Lake Geneva in Switzerland and the Seine River in Paris. They feature two different modes, one that operates as a traditional boat and the previously mentioned “flying” operation.

“The tests [have] gone very well,”SeaBubbles told Green Matters. “It was the opportunity for us to [test] the stability of our new foils. We are very satisfied. The goal was to adjust the fly settings for different types of water [such as lakes and seas with more or less flow. It was] also the occasion to check the reliability of our materials.”

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There’s been some issues in getting the service passed in areas like Lake Geneva. According to Electrek, Switzerland’s government is worried about building docks for the new Bubble Taxis into the water and ferries that are already transporting people are concerned with increased traffic.

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However, the company does expect to launch next year once it passes regulations. There’s also expectations for an autonomous version later in the year. It's an aggressive target date that would likely require further hurdles to jump through.

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Each of the five SeaBubbles prototypes can hold up to six people at once -- the pilot and five passengers. Baptiste Lambert, the company’s marketing and strategy officer, told Forbes that each prototype costs nearly $16,350 US. Pre-orders are currently being taken and they’ve already had plans to set things up 20 “hotels and some unspecified companies.”

Is there a chance that SeaBubbles is coming stateside? The company is already involved with some negotiations. Many opportunities present itself, especially when looking at the country’s major rivers and great lakes, but they would be on a much smaller scale than the prototypes they’ve been experimenting with.

“We are studying all the opportunities,” the company told us. “Some discussions are ongoing with the United States but we are focusing first on the European opportunities.”

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