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Artist's impression of SeaBubbles on the Seine │© SeaBubbles
Artist's impression of SeaBubbles on the Seine │© SeaBubbles
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'Flying' Water Taxis To Be Trialed In Paris

Picture of Paul McQueen
Updated: 2 November 2016
The question: how do you get from a concert at the Maison de la Radio to the rooftop bar at Les Docks in under 15 minutes? The answer: you can’t (not without risking your life and breaking a dozen traffic laws, anyway). However, if trials of the futuristic SeaBubble taxis on the Seine go well in Paris next spring, this could be a problem of the past.

The SeaBubble is the invention of French yachtsman Alain Thébault, who has already made history with his high-speed Hydroptère experimental hydrofoil trimaran. Inspired by his daughters’ wish for cleaner cities, he set about designing a vehicle that could ease congestion and reduce emissions.

Alain Thebault│© Christophe Launay
Alain Thebault│ | © Christophe Launay

Based on the design for the Fiat 500, each SeaBubble can accommodate four passengers and a pilot. When in motion, the majority of the ‘bubble with four wings’ floats about 70 centimeters above the surface of the water, with only its lower parts, or foils, making contact. This creates 40% less drag than a standard boat hull and boosts energy efficiency. Powered by two small electric motors on its rear skids, which charge using solar panels on the vehicle and marine turbines at its docking station, they can reach speeds of up to 18 kilometers per hour. As well as being more ecologically friendly, they should also be less expensive than traditional taxis.

Front view of a SeaBubbles │© SeaBubbles
Front view of a SeaBubbles │ | © SeaBubbles

Riverside congestion is an ongoing concern for Paris’ city hall. Vocal opponents of the plan to pedestrianize the right bank of the Seine claim that it will cause more frequent traffic jams on the roads up above. Maximizing the river for transportation is one way to tackle this problem. Initially, five SeaBubbles will be trialed between two landing stages. If all goes well, hundreds more could be added to the fleet at stations along the river.

Rear view of a SeaBubble │© SeaBubbles
Rear view of a SeaBubble │ | © SeaBubbles

Though Paris hopes to be the first to have these bubble cabs on the go, it isn’t the only interested city. Geneva, San Francisco, and London are all keen on the idea, as are corporations like Renault and Uber and more than 100 individuals with the €30,000 needed to purchase one.

Thébault is currently tweaking the design to make the vehicle, which he believes could quickly become autonomous, even more user-friendly.