Candela’s electric hydrofoiling ferry fled

The future will be electricity, but in air and water that transfer is more difficult than on land. Candela has taken a major step toward electrifying traditional gas-powered institutions like ferries with its P-12, a hydrofoiling craft now in production that will make passenger ships cleaner and quieter.

The company just took the craft (named after the 12-meter length, about 39 feet) for its first “flight” in Stockholm after announcing the development earlier this year, along with a fair amount of funding.

Candela’s boats are part of a new wave of vehicles that look more like airplanes, using an underwater “wing” to generate lift rather than simply pushing a V-shaped water arrow. Startup Navier is looking at the same categories of medium-size passenger boats, while Boundary Layer is looking to capture some of the Jet Ski (and possibly cargo) market.

While the hydrofoiling craft is not a new concept by any means, the latest generation takes inspiration from fighter jets and other high-tech aircraft that hand over stability control to automated ones. that system. A pilot cannot adjust their ailerons 100 times per second to keep their fighter steady – such minute monitoring and adjustments are handled automatically.

Likewise with hydrofoiling boats like Candela’s, which adjusts the wing’s angle of attack underwater at that rate, constantly responding to turbulence, weight changes, and balance. The result is an incredibly stable ride that is completely driven by wire. (They create less turbulence in the water, in fact, allowing them to bypass speed restrictions in some places that are put in place to prevent wave damage. No wake? No problem.)

I had the opportunity to board and drive a P-8 in Seattle’s Elliott Bay earlier this year and it was both similar and unlike driving a regular boat. After a certain speed there is an automatic “take off” sequence that brings it up to hydrofoiling speed, greatly reducing water resistance and increasing efficiency as the hull rises from the water completely . I’m afraid it’s hard to maneuver there but it’s no different than a regular boat, except you’re kind of on stilts.

Candela’s P-8 leisure craft in Seattle.

P-12 is the institutional follow-up to the leisure craft of P-8. Designed to seat up to 30 people, it is intended to replace or supplement larger ferries that are powered mostly by diesel engines or generators. These large, often decades-old craft are reliable and powerful (Seattle’s ferries take hundreds of cars and people on board without a problem) but of course consume a lot of fuel and pollute the water they travel through. Smaller ferries and water taxis operate at the peak of profitability due to fuel and maintenance costs.

Such craft contribute about 3-4% of global CO2 emissions, but this number is expected to grow, perhaps more than doubling by midcentury, according to an EU study. And of course their effects on waterways and the animals that live there are greater.

Close up of the hydrofoil struts of the Candela P-12 — the wing is underwater.

The P-12 is intended to replace small ferries, of course, that cannot accommodate vehicles. But with a top speed of 30 knots and a range of up to 100 km (about 62 miles), the ships can easily navigate many pedestrian routes. Some cities – such as the company’s native Stockholm – have already accepted the change to electric boats, both out of obligation to support clean energy and, ultimately, to save money.

The 30-seat shuttle production version of the P-12 (it also comes in a luxury version with half the volume, and an ultra-lux private edition) costs $1.7 million – not pocket change by any means. estimate, but relatively cheap for a single passenger. car of this size.

Add fuel savings (Candela estimates the boats’ operating costs at 10% of an equivalent fuel vessel), generally low maintenance levels, and the fact that the whole thing can be operated by one person instead of three or four. …

Candela claims that the total savings will be about 50% “per passenger kilometer,” leaving more margin for operations, profits, and reinvestment.

Image Credits: Candela

“We’re not only offering a faster, more comfortable electric alternative to fossil fuel-powered ships,” Erik Eklund of Candela said in a press release. “We enable operators to make the transition to sustainable vessels cost-effective and profitable, an important step towards cleaner oceans and lakes.”

Navier recently toured several coastal cities to make a very similar pitch, and various operators and municipal officials were impressed with the direction things were going. It’s not as simple as just raking in the money – these things take time, and boats in service may still have years left in the water – but it provides a realistic next step beyond just a boat. which drags the gas to fit properly 50 years ago.

Although the two companies are nominal competitors, there is no way that two relatively small startups can meet the global demand for electric watercraft together, so they are very friendly. opposites working for a good cause.

Meanwhile, electrification is coming for international shipping and smaller boats too – even converting an old dinghy in the garage if you have twenty grand. A quieter, cleaner water future is on the way.

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