Foiled again: Candela raises another $20 million to set course for ferry future

by Ana Lopez

Swedish company Candela will launch its 30-passenger commercial hydrofoil shuttle, the P-12, this summer – the ship she believes will change the course of motorized waterborne transport. Following the lead of the C-7 and C-8 leisure cruisers, Candela has already made waves with its drive to transition to fossil-free waterways.

“We are now busy finalizing the development and production of this ferry, which we believe will be something of a game changer in public transport,” said Gustav Hasselskog, Founder and CEO of Candela.

The company raised SEK 210 million (about $20 million). The investment is co-led by EQT Ventures and investor duo Joel Eklund (Fosielund Holding AB) and Svante Nilo Bengtsson (Marknadspotential AB), with participation from Ocean Zero LLC, among others. This follows last year’s $24 million round.

The P-12 is an electrically powered hydrofoil that effectively flies over the surface of the water on computer-controlled underwater wings. It has a range of up to 60 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 27 knots. Electrically powered makes the P-12 cleaner and greener than traditional diesel craft, which also makes it cheaper to run. Candela estimates that the P-12 uses 80% less energy than a traditional ship.

“It’s very good for the environment; in total, shipping is responsible for about 3% of total CO2 emissions,” says Hasselskog. However, in addition to the benefits of electric propulsion, the P-12 has been designed with low maintenance and service costs in mind.

“We use a maintenance-friendly dry drain; we developed this pod motor, which has no gears, oil or anything, they are just submersible motors,” explains Hasselskog.

If the decision to create a passenger vessel with a maximum capacity of 30 people seems a bit unusual, it is because it is designed for coastal, archipelago or lake transport, and how people use water transport in these regions actually use.

“It looks the same in Oslo, Stockholm, New York and everywhere: most of these boats typically have 300 passengers. But if you study the optimal boat size – especially in Stockholm, Istanbul and San Francisco – it is concluded that this is not the optimal boat size. Seat usage is usually super low. In Stockholm it is 5% over the year,” says Hasselskog. “If you only have 30 passengers, you don’t need more than one staff member on board; otherwise you need three staff. When you add all that up you get a very good cost comparison which is why we chose this format. Operators typically save around 40% compared to traditional large diesel setups.”

By switching to smaller vessels, they can be used more flexibly, for example by operating on-demand rather than on a fixed schedule and traveling to more remote locations. The company says this has a huge benefit to operators in the form of cost efficiency.

Candela wants to build on this flexible approach to transportation and is currently developing its own software to enable real-time fleet routing. It is also very excited about the benefits the P-12 can bring to passengers.

“The first one we are going to put in the water is for the city of Stockholm. It goes from a suburb outside the city to the center. If you travel that route today by bus and metro, or with the current boat, it will take 50 minutes. We can do that in 25 minutes,” says Hasselskog. “The reason for this is that we don’t create a wake, so we have permission to go faster. If we can save commuters’ travel time, it will make a huge difference.”

For Candela and Hasselskog, the future looks like large fleets of small craft that can travel faster to more remote locations, with more flexibility. It may start in Stockholm, but it is estimated that the market is €15 billion in size and has global appeal.

“The next step for us here is to… take a place like Stockholm, where there are about 35 big ferries today. We will replace them with 120 of us,” says Hasselskog. And from there: “It’s a global business that we envision and so far we’re in discussions with hundreds of customers. They are spread from Hong Kong to Sydney. There are many in the Gulf region, in Europe, and we have dialogues in Mexico, Belize, San Francisco, New York.”

The company is betting big that bigger isn’t always better, hoping that smaller can be faster, greener, and more usable.

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