Alain Thébault is a man with a dream – to make sailboats fly.
In fact, it's something the Frenchman has been working on for the last 25 years, he writes on his website, starting with building wooden models and more recently breaking sailing speed records.
His latest project is “SeaBubble” – “a bubble with four wings” – that floats above the ground (or indeed water), and which can reach 18km/hr thanks to two small electric motors.
He designed the vehicle to be a people-carrier along the Seine, the river that runs through the heart of Paris.
“The idea actually came from my daughters after I sailed from LA to Hawaii recently,” an energetic Thébault told The Local.
“They told me to invent a zero-emission cab because they were sick of seeing the pollution in Paris, London, and in the US.”
Not a man to waste any time, Thébault set about designing the Sea Bubble, a vehicle that would essentially float 70 centimetres above the water surface, only making contact with the water via its four “marine wings”, or foils.
The vehicle is designed like a Fiat 500, he says, with the same technology but different propulsion. The wings under the boat essentially lift it off the water, reducing the drag significantly.
And the vehicle could work as a taxi service along the River Seine, where there are far fewer traffic jams than along the roads alongside.
“Initially, there will be drivers, but quickly, our vehicle can become autonomous,” he added.
The project is already backed by several investors, and 100 people have already registered interest in owning their own bubble.
Thébault, together with his working partner Anders Bringdal, have also attracted the attention of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. Indeed, since the story broke in Le Figaro newspaper, the Frenchman says he has fielded calls from companies including carmaker Renault and the Uber ride-sharing app.
Now, Thébault is now working on some design tweaks to make the vehicle easier to use.
Then, anyone with a spare €30,000 can call themselves a proud owner of the Sea Bubble, if all goes to plan, and Anne Hidalgo can proudly boast that Paris was the first city in the world with the little bubble cabs.
But she better be quick. Thébault said that London Mayor Boris Johnson has already been on the phone asking questions.