When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Virtual image of SeaBubbles on the Seine River
Virtual image of SeaBubbles on the Seine River
Julie Schüpbach

GENEVA Alain Thébault is working on making a small bubble-shaped electric catamaran that can "fly" over water. And perhaps be remotely controlled.

This vehicle may sound like something that belongs to the realm of science fiction except for the fact that Thébault is a successful inventor. He created the Hydroptère, one of the fastest boats in the world.

[rebelmouse-image 27090261 alt="""" original_size="1200x800" expand=1]

Thébault's Hydroptère — Photo: Thomas Lesage

Thébault imagines an environmentally conscious vehicle called SeaBubble that reduces traffic in city centers by using lakes and rivers. The yachtsman aims to create a transport system with "zero noise, zero pollution, and zero waves."

Like the Hydroptère, SeaBubble uses hydrofoils — fins under the boat's hull that allows it to rise above the water when sailing at high speeds. This greatly reduces the boat's drag as only the hydrofoils are submerged. "Vehicles with hydrofoils spend 40% less energy when moving," says Thébault.

In 2009, the Hydroptère crossed the symbolic threshold of 100 km per hour (62 miles per hour). In June 2015, Thébault and his partner Anders Bringdal, a record-holding windsurfer, designed sketches of SeaBubble that featured the hydrofoils that would move it up to the speed of 55 kph (35 mph).

"Elegant solution"

The SeaBubble's engine consists of a "pod" — a small compartment with an electric motor and a 360-degree rubber propeller. "This technology is already well-known, successful and the professional standard," says Guy Wolfensberger, director of Grove Boats, a company that constructs solar-powered boats in Switzerland.

Thébault and Bringdal believe that SeaBubbles needs to be lightweight and, yet, store enough energy to travel at a high speed. The key to the project lies in a very light and long-lasting battery, they say.

Estimated to cost between $21,000 and $42,000, the SeaBubble is slated to transport up to four people and come with an electric recharging terminal. Investor Henri Seydoux believes the vehicle has the potential to become as widespread as car ride service Uber.

Officials in Paris have expressed interest in the project. "Paris should be the first city to test prototypes of SeaBubbles," Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has said.

"It is a very elegant solution that does not require new infrastructure," says Romain Lavault, a spokesman for international investment fund Partech Ventures.

Thébault hopes to take SeaBubble beyond France to the U.S. and Switzerland.

"With a number of bridges jammed with traffic, a parallel route on the water is very interesting … SeaBubbles will certainly have a touristy value for cities like Geneva," says Gianluigi Giacomel, a researcher at the University Observatory of Mobility.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Economy

Europe's Winter Energy Crisis Has Already Begun

in the face of Russia's stranglehold over supplies, the European Commission has proposed support packages and price caps. But across Europe, fears about the cost of living are spreading – and with it, doubts about support for Ukraine.

Protesters on Thursday in the German state of Thuringia carried Russian flags and signs: 'First our country! Life must be affordable.'

Martin Schutt/dpa via ZUMA
Stefanie Bolzen, Philipp Fritz, Virginia Kirst, Martina Meister, Mandoline Rutkowski, Stefan Schocher, Claus, Christian Malzahn and Nikolaus Doll

-Analysis-

In her State of the Union address on September 14, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, issued an urgent appeal for solidarity between EU member states in tackling the energy crisis, and towards Ukraine. Von der Leyen need only look out her window to see that tensions are growing in capital cities across Europe due to the sharp rise in energy prices.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

In the Czech Republic, people are already taking to the streets, while opposition politicians elsewhere are looking to score points — and some countries' support for Ukraine may start to buckle.

With winter approaching, Europe is facing a true test of both its mettle, and imagination.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ