Stripe commuters swap traffic jams for hydrofoil glam

SF employees set sail on exclusive six-seater sea shuttle – the rest will have to stick to roads

San Francisco-based employees of financial services firm Stripe will soon have an alternative to their automotive commute thanks to Navier, a startup building electric hydrofoil boats.

Well, a few of them anyway. Once Navier starts offering ferry services from Larkspur, California, on the north end of the San Francisco Bay to Stripe's south San Fran HQ in March, it'll be on one of the company's flagship N30 boats, which only have room for six passengers. 

Describing the initiative as a "first-of-its-kind pilot program," Navier CEO and co-founder Sampriti Bhattacharyya said the ferry service will connect portions of San Francisco Bay not served by traditional ferries. Stripe employees that book a trip on the Navier N30 will see their commute times cut from potentially an hour to "less than 30 minutes door-to-door – all with no carbon emissions."


The route Navier will take from Larkspur to Stripe HQ

Hydrofoil boats, for anyone unfamiliar with the technology, have propellers mounted on a set of wing-like foils that extend under the body of the craft. Once at cruising speeds the foils lift the boat out of the water, meaning the ride should be smooth and chop-free. Hydrofoil boats like the N30 can also be operated from traditional marinas, meaning they don't need additional infrastructure to enter operation, further reducing costs.

We were unable to reach Navier to ask how many trips the Stripe ferry will make in a day, but Bhattacharyya told Forbes it would only be making one round trip, dropping six Stripers off at HQ and taking them back to their cars at the end of the day. 

"We will be working closely with Stripe to think about how this kind of high-speed water transit scales, and as we scale in different parts of this marina we will also have fast charging infrastructures, which will help us to do many more round trips much faster," Bhattacharyya told Forbes. 


A rendering of a Navier boat with Stripe branding

Navier said it plans to add an additional five to seven boats as the pilot program advances, and boats with additional seating are planned as well. According to the Stripe deal announcement, future Navier hydrofoil boats will be able to seat up to 30 people.

Navier claims that a 30-seat electric hydrofoil can reduce automobile usage by "the equivalent of 120 cars," though it's not clear how the company arrived at that figure. In addition to emissions reductions, the N30 reportedly only costs $0.38 per mile to operate, the company claims.

Navier isn't the only company trying to make inroads (or, more appropriately, incanals) to shorten commute times. Swedish startup Candela demonstrated some of its hydrofoil boat technology in Maryland late last year to entice east coast cities to consider aquatic alternatives to automotive commutes.

Like Navier, however, Candela passenger crafts with a larger capacity are still in development. The Swedish firm's 30-seat P-12 only just made its debut in November, but doesn't appear to be available for purchase yet. The alternative P-8, like Navier's current N30, can only carry six people.

Coastal townies are advised to hang on to their keys and transit passes for the foreseeable future. ®

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