Swedish tech biz aims to sail past traffic woes on electric hydrofoils

But P-12's production timeline is fuzzy

A Swedish technology company thinks it has a solution to the misery of urban commutes, at least for those in cities with good access to waterways: 30-seat, all-electric hydrofoil shuttles that can reach speeds of up to 30 knots, or just shy of 35mph (55kph).

The P-12 Shuttle has already received a nod from city officials in Sweden's capital of Stockholm, and now Candela, the company behind it and several other electric hydrofoil boats, is turning to American waters to look for new customers.

Candela is demonstrating its tech in Annapolis, Maryland, at the city's annual boat show this week (though not the P-12 – its consumer model C-8 is on hand instead) with a focus on proving its concept and selling the absent P-12 as a viable alternative to surface commutes.

In nearby Washington DC, for example, a P-12 navigating the Potomac River could get from the Georgetown neighborhood to Ronald Reagan airport in Arlington, Virginia, in a mere six minutes, while a similar drive could take up to 20 and public transport is closer to a 40-minute trip. Were the P-12 to find a home on New York's Hudson River, residents there could expect similarly shortened commute times on the water, Candela said.

For those unfamiliar with hydrofoils, the craft's propellers are mounted not on the body of the boat itself, but on wing-like structures attached to the ship's underside. As craft gain speed, the hydrofoil wings lift its body out of the water, decreasing drag and allowing for greater speed while simultaneously reducing choppiness and creating a smoother ride. In Candela's case, the foils themselves are computer-controlled, meaning the ride should be even smoother.

candela-p-12-hydrofoils

The hydrofoils of the Candela P-12

Because it makes minimal contact with the water (while at speed), the P-12's wake is nearly nonexistent, meaning it is not bound by speed restrictions placed on boats operating in cities – at least if the boats get that sort of approval, as is the case in Stockholm, Candela said. 

"Most cities grapple with traffic congestion during peak hours while their waterways remain largely unused. Remembering that many of these cities originated around water, our vision is to convert these rivers, lakes, and seas into new, sustainable highways," said Candela founder and CEO Gustav Hasselskog.

Anything to shorten that darn commute

Commuting sucks – you know it, your boss knows it, and the COVID-19 pandemic made it all the more apparent. When the world collectively paused commutes to the office in early 2020, numerous studies came out to reinforce that obvious fact, and to back it up with data suggesting commuting is a productivity sink.

None of that matters, of course, when a good chunk of the world's economy is invested in commercial real estate. With $453 billion in value reportedly wiped out thanks to remote work triggered by the pandemic, you can rest assured return-to-office plans will continue, executive regrets or no.

Return-to-office isn't solely to blame for the erasure of carbon emission reduction in 2020, but more of the world burning fossil fuels to sit stuck in traffic isn't helping. That said, can cities with waterways expect some P-12s or smaller P-8s to grace their rivers? That's not exactly clear.

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Concept art of the interior of the Candela P-12

When talking up the P-12 in 2022, Candela said it planned to lay the hull for the first vessel of the class late last year. The plan was then for the P-12 to undergo a nine-month trial in Stockholm in 2023 while ramping up production, but both of those events have been delayed.

As of today, the Stockholm trials won’t be undertaken until Spring 2024, Candela told us. The company is still working on the first three P-12 boats with plans to ramp production after that, but no timeline was provided. The P-8, which is being built on the same frame as the electric boat distance record-setting consumer C-8 (the vessel being demoed in Annapolis), won’t be out until after P-12 production is off and running.

In other words, don't expect to ditch your gas-guzzler and half-hour commute with an electric hydrofoil ferry any time soon. When it eventually does hit the market, the P-12 will be in several cities, we’re told, but Candela won’t share who else has expressed interest. ®

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