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Video shows simulation of Regent’s electric Seagliders in operation. Video / Regent

An emission-free ride from Whitianga to Auckland’s CBD in 30 minutes and costing around $30 might seem to be a futuristic fantasy but could be a reality as early as
2025.

A New Zealand consortium has announced it will be purchasing a fleet of 25 Seagliders which will operate initially out of Auckland and Wellington.

Delivery is expected around 2025.

Seagliders are fully electric and will operate over the coastal waters of New Zealand. The craft is designed to initially move forward on its hull then as they gain speed they foil much like an America’s Cup yacht, then take off and fly at about 10m above the ocean.

“This will be a gamechanger for coastal towns on the Coromandel Peninsula and is really exciting,” Denis Tegg, Thames-Coromandel representative on the Waikato Regional Council, said.

“The New Zealand owners of the consortium have stated that a connection between Auckland and Whitianga (and Tauranga) is planned. In interviews, they have said a 150km flight to Whanga¯rei would take 30 minutes and cost around $30. Auckland to Whitianga is also around 150km so a $30 fare is feasible to connect to Coromandel’s east coast,” he
said.

“Imagine being able to get to the Viaduct in central Auckland within 30 minutes for just $30, with zero climate emissions and avoiding a stressful car trip taking upwards of three hours.

“Within a few years, we could potentially have Seaglider links to other Coromandel Peninsula towns such as Coromandel and Thames/Kopu servicing the catchment in the eastern Waikato region and northern Bay of Plenty.”

New Zealand company Ocean Flyer is trying to raise close to $800 million for the project to link towns and cities with all-electric “Seagliders”, a boat-plane hybrid with top speeds of up to 540km/h.

If it gets off the water, Ocean Flyer would revolutionise transport around Aotearoa and is promising low-cost fares and bus-like frequency through low operating cost of the craft which would dock near many city and town centres.

Ocean Flyer is owned by So Capital, which also owns Air Napier, and it has ordered from a United States startup 25 seagliders that foil as America’s Cup yachts do to take off and when in cruise mode fly about 10m above the sea.

“The craft is very quiet so can be operated at night for freight transport without disturbing local residents, so this is another huge opportunity for Thames-Coromandel businesses to quickly and cheaply move their goods to market”, Tegg said.

“Whilst these types of services might initially be run by commercial interests, there is also the potential for them to be operated as a public transport “ferry” service.

“Operating costs for this craft are about one-eighth of those for a conventional aircraft so they could eventually be a good fit for public transport.

“Waikato Regional Council has responsibility for coastal infrastructure like wharves and jetties and for public transport so the council has to be nimble and flexible enough to plan for these exciting emerging technologies,” Tegg said.

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