Cleaner greener water taxis

Prototype taxi boat awaiting installation of the REAPsystems' drop-in hybrid-drive unit at the company's centre of excellence in Southampton REAPsystems' drop-in hybrid-drive unit at REAP's centre of excellence in Southampton Prototype taxi boat awaiting installation of the REAPsystems' drop-in hybrid-drive unit at the company's centre of excellence in Southampton

Renewable energy propulsion specialist, REAPsystems, is developing a hybrid-drive system for installation in Venice’s water taxis in order to convert the current fleet into cleaner, greener transport.

Venice, a UNESCO World Heritage city, has approximately 20,000 leisure craft and 550 taxi boats serving some 32m visitors every year. All are currently diesel-powered meaning Venice suffers from high levels of air and noise pollution which affects the water, architecture and health of both residents and tourists alike.

REAPsystems chief technology officer, Dr Dennis Doerffel, explained: “The city, its residents and visitors will benefit from reduced air, water and noise pollution.”

“Taxi operators will get lower fuel consumption, operating costs and overall cost of ownership plus greater reliability and longer life without sacrificing performance,” he added.

To create its unique prototype, REAP has acquired a 9m Venice taxi boat enabling the company to perfectly tailor its drop-in hybrid-drive system to fit the design and layout of the craft.

The system, designed with the support of Southampton University and RIB maker Scorpion, uses a Hyundai diesel engine paired with an electric motor, lithium battery array and control unit. The engine can be ‘clutched out’ to allow a purely electric drive at lower speeds for which diesel power is inefficient. At higher speeds the batteries are recharged in transit.

“Venice represents a tough testing ground: a standard 9m taxi boat typically has a long, hard 20 hour day and has to manage speeds below 3 knots as well as powering up beyond 30 knots for fast, planning transits outside of the confines of the canal,” explained Dr Doerffel.

REAP will launch the hybrid-drive taxi boat this summer to coincide with new legislation concerning pollution from waterborne traffic. Indeed, this latest green initiative follows a number of ventures launched by the Port of Venice in recent months including an offshore bunkering platform to enable vessels to follow the shortest possible route between China and Europe, and its far-reaching ‘port of tomorrow’ masterplan, a series of changes aiming to create a sustainable port with minimal impact on local people and the environment.

In the longer-term REAP hopes to apply the technology to other types of boats, focussing initially on 10 to 15m monohulls. There are also opportunities for use in windfarm support vessels, patrol craft, small passenger ferries and fishing boats.

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