Seaglider with Normandie in Pompey, Source: Brittany Ferries website

Zero-Emissions “Flying Ferry” between UK and France

Zero-Emissions “Flying Ferry” between UK and France

Brittany Ferries announces 180 mph seaglider that will carry up to 150 passengers by 2028

Zero-emission, sea gliding ferry will zip from Portsmouth to Cherbourg in as little as 40 minutes. The current travel time is nearly eight hours with a regular ferry. Cross channel ferry company Brittany Ferries announced on Tuesday 15 June that they are working on a way to connect France and the UK in the future.

The seacraft, with a capacity of 50-150 passengers, could be sailing between France and the UK by 2028, but a smaller electric vessel could be ready for passengers even by 2025.

Are true hovercrafts finally here?

The short answer is – maybe.

They work through a well-known concept called the “ground effect”. This is something pilots are very familiar with. When flying at low altitudes, a cushion of high-pressure air is trapped between the wings and the ground or the water. Seagliders are therefore akin to a hovercraft with wings, rather than a skirt.

Following departure from port, the craft rises – insulation passengers from the rocking of the waves. In the open sea, it takes off, riding the air cushion all the way to its destination. Wing-mounted propellers provide the needed thrust to take to the air, while electric motors regulate airflow over the wings while riding the air cushion.

And, most importantly, the craft will be powered by battery, rather than fossil fuel, which makes it a formidable opponent to ships and planes, both of which have a heavy environmental impact.

The concept for the new ferry is developed by Boston-based start-up REGENT (Regional Ground effect nautical Transport). The seagliders combine the convenience of passenger ferries with the comfort of hydrofoils, the aerodynamic efficiency of hovercrafts and the speed of the aircraft.

The REGENT developed craft is expected to glide at speeds of up to 180 mph – six times faster than conventional ferries – with a battery-powered range of 180 miles and it can use and connect existing ferry ports.

The energy transition is a priority for forward-looking companies, such as Brittany Ferries and is key to its recovery in the post-Covid times.

Frédéric Pouget, ports and operations director for Brittany Ferries based in Roscoff (France), stated: “We are particularly pleased to contribute now because it means we can bring real-world challenges and potential applications into the company’s thinking at an early stage. Who knows; this could be the birth of ferries that fly across the Channel.”

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