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Rowing coach’s electric boat cleans water as it moves

Seen nipping up and down the River Saône in Lyon, the Neptunéo electric catamaran owes its origins to a long-standing problem... but can prevent others for the future.

27 August 2018
By Emily Commander

It is the brainchild of former professional rowing coach Olivier Gouraud, who spent much of his career on safety boats accompanying rowing teams as they train and race.

Safety boats have room for only four people, but a full rowing crew is nine, so they are ineffective if the whole team are involved – especially in a cold river where survival time is just two minutes.

Even worse, they capsize relatively easily, pollute rivers and waterways and residents along the riverbank complain about excessive noise.

Mr Gouraud decided to tackle all the issues head-on with a single solution and drew up a specification that he took to a naval architect. Out of this, Neptunéo was born.

Its design is simple: built on a ‘chassis’ of two hulls, it sits high in the water, can hold up to 10 people, carries 1.5tonnes, and is fully electric, with up to 14 hours of pollution-free range at speeds of 10kph.

The engine is electric and silent, so ending complaints about revving motors.

Another side of Neptunéo’s innovation, though, is that its double hull allows for the installation, underneath, of a ‘de-pollution station’.

This is, essentially, a system of nets and filters allowing the catamaran to clean the water of oily residue and other debris as small as cigarette ends as it travels.

Given that many of the rivers used for rowing are filthy, this allows the vessel not only to avoid generating further pollution, but to clean up after the generations of boats that preceded it.

This summer a prototype was launched at the Confluence area in Lyon. This is the home of Navly, Europe’s first autonomous electric bus, and the city is swiftly gaining a reputation for transport innovation.

Sold by Mr Gouraud’s company Nautiqu’elec, the prototype has drawn interest from rowing organisers nationwide and will soon be travelling abroad to international events.

Interest has spread further, with its load-bearing capacity and height on the water making it well-suited to the transport of compact loads. Oyster catchers have made inquiries, as have urban delivery services, attracted by the idea of bypassing jammed roadways.

In Tunisia, the security services have even been attracted by its silent approach, which could make it useful in covert operations.

Neptunéo’s maiden voyage on the river Saône also revealed its potential for private use, and Nautiqu’elec has been working on customisation: allowing clients to install covers, fridges, and solar panels to increase its autonomous range.

“I always knew it would work,” Mr Gouraud said: “It was designed to solve a universal problem, and in the end it solves many more.”

Nautiqu’elec is now looking for a final round of investors to get its range on to the market.

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