Boundary Layer Technologies is Alameda, California based startup that is building high speed zero emissions container ships using hydrofoil technology in quest to decarbonize ocean transport.

The ARGO ship has a gross payload capacity of 200 tons, a range of up to 1,500 nautical miles, and a cruise speed of 40 knots, which is twice that of conventional containerships.

This performance would enable door-door transit times only 15 to 24 hours slower than air freight, but at 50% of the price, according to the company.

The company raised $4.8 million from Lower Carbon Capital, Fifty Years and Soma Capital, and already has $90 million in pre-orders from ferry operators for their 220-seat electric passenger vessels. The passenger ships are but a launchpad before the company goes after its real goal: the freight market.

CEO and founder, Ed Kearney says β€œWe applied to Y Combinator and were accepted. We told the partners in the interview that if we were accepted into Y Combinator, we would come to the Bay Area, and we’d build a hydrofoil container ship that carries one container,” says Kearney. The Y Combinator team called bullshit, he tells me. The team rolled up their sleeves and got to work. β€œWe turned up with some hand tools in our luggage, no workshop, nowhere to live, and started building. Ten weeks later, we managed to build this hydrofoil. We spent $150,000 on it, which happened to be exactly the amount of money that YC gives you. We parked out in front of the demo day facility and it made a bit of an impact.”

It’s easy to see how; Check the company’s prototype ship β€” and the video it produced to show its prototype

In comparison with a conventional ship, this vessel will use a fraction of the fuel required to travel at the same high speed.

Kearney explains that β€œThe physics [of hydrofoiling] is very similar to that of an aircraft. The amount of the lift-to-drag ratio that you get with modern materials on a hydrofoil wing these days are about the same as what you can get from a traditional airplane. So the amount of power you need to make a vehicle have the same amount of mass takeoff is also kind of comparable. Also the amount of thrust you need scales with speed. An aircraft travels at 500 knots β€” we travel 40 β€” but they still need 12 times more power. In a nutshell, the way we solved it was by taking a smaller vessel, you get very weight-conscious, and you need a large amount of power. That means we need big fuel cells and batteries.”

ARGO is powered by green hydrogen and fuel cells, which are stored as a liquid inside its two hulls. ARGO can also be applied to replace other transport modes aside from air freight according to Stuart Whiting, Senior Vice President of Global Supply Chain, Logistics & Planning at Schneider Electric.

Zero Emission Hydrofoil Containership Β© Boundary Layer Technologies 

This hydrofoil vessel company firm is looking for launch partners for an intra-Asia Argo service that would begin in Q3 2024. This route would facilitate the transportation of finished goods and components for electronic manufacturers in the region.

In the future, the firm intends to introduce a larger vessel on a transpacific service.

For this, Boundary Layer Technologies has already signed a $180m letter of intent with Flexport, a digital freight forwarder.