A Finnish designer has drawn up a concept solar hovercraft that may soon be ferrying passengers among ports along the Baltic Sea.
The AirFlow, penned by Lukas Medeisis, was designed to solve transportation woes in the coastal city of Helsinki. He wanted to get the public transit infrastructure out of crowded urban areas and give passengers a waterfront view, all without hurting sea life with massive propellers. Another problem in Helsinki is that it gets cold, cold enough for the brackish waters of the Gulf of Finland to freeze over and halt marine traffic.
For Medeisis, there was only one solution: a hovercraft.
“A hovercraft is one of few vehicles what can be used on any surface – water, snow, ice,” he said. That means it’s ideal for a country where all three are a frequent presence.
The AirFlow isn’t just any hovercraft. It’s got a roof full of transparent solar panels that power a hybrid electric drivetrain and let the sun shine in.
Solar power is ideal for at least part of the year in Helsinki, where the sun can shine for 19 hours at a time in the summer. When it’s sunny, the light isn’t even blocked by buildings. “As Helsinki does not have skyscrapers and buildings are as low as six to eight floors at the coastline, the hovercraft’s solar panels can all the time be affected by sun,” Medeisis said.
Aside from the solar panels, the AirFlow incorporates other design improvements over other vessels. “Different from other hovercrafts, AirFlow has two steering propellers in front,” said Medeisis. “This technical/design feature was affected by problems of steering hovercraft. By forwarding or reversing spin, the propellers help to steer the vehicle more precisely, which adds more speed and increases braking efficiency.”
Additionally, bicycle storage is on the sides of the hovercraft, allowing public transit users to bring their bikes on board without taking up passenger space.
Medeisis says that such a vehicle may seem futuristic, but isn’t that far off. “In my point of view this type of vehicle could be designed in five to eight years if engineers use a hybrid engine for thrust.”
Images: Lukas Medeisis
Via Wired Autopia: http://www.wired.com/autopia/