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Brittany Ferries to develop new zero-emissions electric “seaglider”

The new craft has potential to become even greener in future as more source electricity is generated from renewable sources.

Brittany Ferries is exploring the potential for a new high-speed, sustainable and more efficient form of ferry travel and has signed a letter of intent which could see seagliders with a 50-150 passenger capacity sailing between the UK and France by 2028. Seagliders combine the convenience of passenger ferries with the comfort of hydrofoils, and the aerodynamic efficiency of hovercraft with the speed of aircraft. With the potential to connect existing ferry ports, the craft are expected to fly at speeds of up to 180 mph – six times faster than conventional ferries – with a battery-powered range of 180 miles. The voyage from Portsmouth to Cherbourg could be covered in as little as 40 minutes.

They work by harnessing a concept well-known to pilots known as ground effect. This is the cushion created by high-pressure air trapped between wings and the ground or water while flying at low altitude. Following departure from port, the craft rises on foils, insulating passengers from wave discomfort. In open waters, it takes off, riding the air cushion all the way to its destination. Wing-mounted propellors provide the thrust to take to the air at low speeds,  while electric motors regulate air flow over wings while riding the air cushion.

This makes for a highly efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transport, capable of moving significant loads over long distances at high speed, with power coming from batteries rather than fossil fuels. Energy transition is a priority for Brittany Ferries and is key to its recovery post-Covid. This project offers an exciting glimpse into the future, with a vehicle never before seen in Franco-British waters. 

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