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Venice hybrid water taxi melds modern technology with classic design

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Looking for a cleaner, more sustainable path forward,
Venice nautical design firm Nuvolari Lenard launches the Thunder water taxi. The 14-seater stays true to the classic wood style of Venice’s luxury water limousines while incorporating a new diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system designed to cut emissions. The result is a timeless watercraft that offers zero-emissions city cruising and more robust diesel range.

Venice has long been working toward a more sustainable balance of tourism and local life. As a city of nearly 120 small islands connected by aquatic thoroughfares, that work is inexorably tied to more efficient water transit. Carlo Nuvolari and Dan Lenard show that their city can both contribute to and benefit from a more sustainable breed of water taxi.

“As Venetians, Dan and I feel a strong connection with the city and have experienced first-hand the damage that is being caused to its delicate structures, through air and noise pollution as well as physical erosion,” Carlo Nuvolari explains in a press release.

Nuvolari Lenard brought the topic up during last year’s Venice Boat Show, eventually landing on diesel-electric hybrid power as the right fit. The diesel engine offers the range and power for open-water trips to and from the airport. Meanwhile, the battery charges and stores an electric reserve used for low-speed cruising through the spider web network of city canals. The diesel-electric stern drive puts out up to 306 hp and is fueled by a 190-L diesel tank.

Nuvolari Lenard modernizes the propulsion but uses a reserved hand when sculpting and styling the boat. Instead of giving it a dramatic modern makeover, the firm keeps the classic lines and trim of a Venetian water limousine. Wood adorns the foredeck of the fiberglass hull ahead of the cockpit. The swept-back glasshouse of the passenger cabin shows a hint of modernization with its transparent roof but houses a classic layout of sofas with quilted upholstery. Foldaway armrests split the sofas into more individualized armchairs.

Venice water limousine builder Vizianello constructed the 30-foot (9.2-m) Thunder prototype, and after testing and certification, Nuvolari Lenard announced the launch of the hybrid taxi this week. In addition to its taxiing work, the Thunder can be personalized into various configurations, including a superyacht tender.

Nuvolari Lenard also plans to develop a hydrogen fuel cell water taxi and says it’s in talks with an Asian car manufacturer about using its fuel cell technology for the prototype.

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