Friday, February 15, 2008

Swiss create the ‘sQuba’ underwater car

Swiss create Bond-like underwater car
‘sQuba’ concept set to make a splash at Geneva Auto Show
Rinspeed says the ‘sQuba’ is the first real submersible car.

GENEVA - OK, so the Swiss have invented a car that runs on land and underwater. But did they REALLY have to make it a convertible?

It’s called the “sQuba,” and conjures up memories of James Bond’s amphibious Lotus Esprit from “The Spy Who Loved Me.” That fictional vehicle traveled on land and, when chased by bad guys in a helicopter, plunged into the water and became an airtight submarine — complete with “torpedoes” and “depth charges.”

But “Q” isn’t responsible for this one.

The concept car — which unlike Bond’s is not armed — was developed by Swiss designer Rinspeed Inc. and is set to make a splash at the Geneva Auto Show next month.

Company CEO Frank Rinderknecht, a self-professed Bond fan, said he has been waiting 30 years to recreate the car he saw Roger Moore use to drive off of a dock.

The sQuba can plow through the water at a depth of 30 feet and has electrical motors to turn the underwater screw.

You’ll have to break out the wetsuit, however.

The car has an open top, meaning that the two passengers are exposed to the elements.

“For safety reasons, we have built the vehicle as an open car so that the occupants can get out quickly in an emergency,” said Rinderknecht, 52.

Passengers will be able to keep breathing underwater through an integrated tank of compressed air similar to what is used in scuba diving.

The sQuba’s top speed on land is about 77 mph, but it slows down to 3 mph on the surface of the water, and 1.8 mph underwater.

Working with engineering specialists, Rinspeed removed the combustion engine from a sports car and replaced it with several electrical motors. Three are located in the rear — er, aft — with one providing propulsion on land and the other two driving the screw for underwater driving.

“We always want to do cars that are outrageous, which nobody has done before. So we thought, ’Let’s make a car dive,”’ said Rinderknecht, whose innovative company has made transparent, flying and voice-activated cars in previous attention-grabbing displays at the Geneva Auto Show.

The company calls the sQuba the first real submersible car. Unlike military amphibious vehicles, which can only drive slowly on a lakebed, the sQuba travels like a submarine — either on the surface or submerged.

The interior is resistant to salt water, allowing the skipper to drive into a lake or the sea.

“Many concept cars introduce important new technology,” said John Cabaniss at the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers in Washington. “Anything to improve the efficiency of a vehicle, streamlining or reducing the weight of materials, while maintaining strength ... is put into concept cars first.”

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