An odd-looking electric boat taxi whose inventor believes it could be an eco-friendly transport solution for cities worldwide was put to the test in Paris for the first time Friday.
"We believe that pollution and global gridlock are not only threatening our welfare, but are ultimately threatening people’s freedom of mobility," says the SeaBubbles company website. "Because in 2050, there will be 4 billion cars in the streets, and even if they are all powered by clean energies, it will still create a massive traffic jam. We believe that the future of mobility will rise from the water, a natural, historic path in the cities that has been underrated for a long time."
The brainchild of French yachtsman Alain Thebault, the aerodynamic SeaBubbles prototype made no noise and no waves as it took a star turn on the River Seine with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo aboard.
"It was a perfect flight," Thebault, 54, said after putting the prototype through its paces between the Eiffel Tower and the Musee d'Orsay.
The white craft skimmed about half a metre (20 inches) over the Seine, executing turns while pausing occasionally to yield to passing ducks.
"It's quiet, comfortable, and fun," said Hidalgo, who has backed the project from the start and hopes it will provide an eco-friendly alternative for getting around the French capital within four years.
The boat is similar to a hydrofoil, with fibreglass foils that deploy to hoist it into the air, powered by electric batteries, and capable of reaching the maximum allowed speed of 18 kilometres (11 miles) per hour.
"It works like the wings of an airplane in the air. After it reaches a certain speed the Bubble lifts off," Thebault said.
"Think James Bond car," says the website, "available for everybody, but with zero wave, zero noise, zero CO2 emission, and a self-charging dock that gives back energy to the grid and cleans the waterways."
Thebault said he has received "an avalanche of requests" from cities including Miami and Seattle, Tokyo, Bangkok and no fewer than 15 cities in India.