Brittany Ferries and US start-up Regent plan to develop a high-speed electric seaglider that would skim above the water to take passengers between France and Britain, the French company said on Wednesday.

The project is based on a craft being developed by Boston-based Regent that could result in “50-150 passenger capacity sailing between the UK and France by 2028,” a statement said.

Regent expects the first commercial passengers to travel on smaller electric craft by 2025, it added.

Seagliders, sometimes called wing-in-ground effect vehicles, benefit from a cushion of “high-pressure air trapped between wings and the ground or water while flying at low altitude,” the ferry company explained. “Seagliders are therefore akin to a hovercraft with wings, rather than a skirt,” it said.

Capable in theory of flying at up to 290 kilometres per hour (180mph), or six times faster than conventional ferries, the electric-powered craft cut emissions to essentially zero.

Capable travelling up to 290kph, or six times faster than conventional ferries, the electric-powered craft cut emissions to essentially zero

A trip from Cherbourg, France, to Portsmouth in England is forecast to take 40 minutes. Currently, Brittany Ferries advertises high-speed service that takes three hours.

“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,” the statement said.

Brittany Ferries currently operates 12 ships on 14 routes between France, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain. Like most travel companies it has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and transported around 750,000 passengers last year, compared with 2.5 million in 2019.

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