Sailor and inventor Alain Thébault’s four-passenger taxi with submerged, electric-powered ‘wings’ has been given the go-ahead for live testing on the Seine this June, with full backing from the city’s mayor Anne Hidalgo.
It might look like something from War of the Worlds, but the space-age Sea Bubble river taxi could be the future of transport in Paris.
Ms Hidalgo had written to Thébault back in 2015 in the hope that Paris would be the first city to experiment with the craft and the project is now ready for the next step. "We are currently in discussion with Ports de Paris to find out where we are going to install them," said Jean-Louis Missika, deputy mayor in charge of urban planning and attractions, "we need a special pontoon and an electric recharge station".
Mr Thébault said testing is taking place right now, privately at a company site: “The first test in public is planned for this summer as we had always imagined.”
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One potential problem is the river speed limit, currently set at 12kph. The Sea Bubble only ‘flies’ at a certain speed, so either the vehicle needs amending or the machines - which work on the same basis as Thébault’s world speed record boat Hydroptère – will require special dispensation from local authorities to exceed the limit.
Climate change and tackling pollution are among Ms Hidalgo’s key policies. “I really believe in the development of river transport,” she told Fast Company magazine. “Most of the world’s big cities were built on riverbanks, an advantage we have to use to reduce our reliance on polluting cars.”