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Brittany Ferries Exploring Zero-Emission ‘flying ferries’

French Ferry Operator Joins Project to Develop Electric ‘Seagliders’

Brittany Ferries has today announced that it has signed a letter of intent with Boston-based start-up REGENT which could see electric-powered ‘seagliders’ sailing between the U.K. and France by 2028.  The ferry company is using its operational experience of fast ferries to assist in the development of the project.

REGENT is currently developing an all-electric, wing-in-ground effect vehicle (WIG) which could be capable of carrying 50-150 people. If the project is successful, it could see the high-speed, sustainable, and more efficient ferries crossing the channel at speeds of up to 180mph. That’s around six times faster than current conventional ferries.  

A video showing the Seaglider concept Brittany Ferries is working on with REGENT. © Brittany Ferries / REGENT.

The American company expects the first fare paying passengers to travel on a smaller electric craft by 2025. According to Brittany Ferries, the concept aims to “combine the convenience of passenger ferries with the comfort of hydrofoils, the aerodynamic efficiency of hovercraft and the speed of aircraft”.

Should the craft enter service, Portsmouth to Cherbourg, for example, could be covered in as little as 40 minutes. Each seaglider would have a battery range of around 180 miles but this could increase to 300 miles using future battery technology.

A mockup showing a Seaglider passing the Brittany Ferries fast-craft NORMANDIE EXPRESS. © Brittany Ferries / REGENT.
A mockup showing a Seaglider passing the Brittany Ferries fast-craft NORMANDIE EXPRESS. © Brittany Ferries / REGENT.

The design of the proposed seagliders takes advantage of the ground effect.  This is when a cushion is created by high-pressure air trapped between the flat surface below (in this case water) and the wings of the vehicle. 

Although Ground Effect Vehicles (GEVs) float on a cushion of air above the water, they are still classed as ships by the IMO. The most famous GEV is probably the Soviet Lun-class Ekranoplan (sometimes referred to as the Caspian Sea Monster).  As a GEVs wings are specifically designed to keep the vehicle floating a short distance above the surface, the vehicle never properly takes off like an aircraft.  Small GEVs have also previously been developed in Germany, Asia, and Australia for both military and leisure applications. 

A rendering of the Seaglider concept. Image: © Brittany Ferries / REGENT.
A rendering of the Seaglider concept. Image: © Brittany Ferries / REGENT.

According to Brittany Ferries, the seagliders should provide passengers with a smooth ride similar to a hovercraft, while also travelling much faster than current ferries.  They are to be powered totally by electricity, and so will also be more environmentally friendly than fossil fuel powered ferries

Frédéric Pouget, ports and operations director for Brittany Ferries, said:

“Seaglider is an attractive and exciting concept and we look forward to working with REGENT in the months and years to come”

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. We hope this may help bring commercial success in the years that follow. Who knows; this could be the birth of ferries that fly across the Channel.”

https://brittanyferriesnewsroom.com/brittany-ferries-eyes-zero-emission-sea-skimming-flying-ferries/
A rendering of the Seaglider concept. Image: © Brittany Ferries / REGENT.
A rendering of the Seaglider concept. Image: © Brittany Ferries / REGENT.

Billy Thalheimer, co-founder and CEO of REGENT, added:

“REGENT is excited to partner with Brittany Ferries to bring the future of maritime transportation to market. Brittany Ferries offers world-class operational experience which will help REGENT ensure that our seagliders will be the most convenient and comfortable form of cross-Channel travel.”

https://brittanyferriesnewsroom.com/brittany-ferries-eyes-zero-emission-sea-skimming-flying-ferries/

Ground Effect Vehicles aren’t the only battery powered ferries designed to float above water under development at present.  Belfast-based Artemis Technologies is leading a consortium developing a new type of hydrofoil called Artemis eFoiler™.  Unlike REGENT’s ground effect concept, the Artemis product is designed to be fitted to existing vessels as well as purpose-built ships.  The company hopes to launch a workboat demonstrator before the end of 2021.

Steven Tarbox

Steven is a former retail professional and a ferry writer and photographer. He created NI Ferry Site as a web design project in 2014 to be a news and information source for everyone with an interest in ferries, with a particular focus on Northern Ireland. Steven is the editor of the website and looks after all of the technical aspects.
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