Shape of things to comeSubmersible car to be unveiled

Published 14 February 2008

James Bond-inspired underwater car to be unveiled at Geneva show 6 March; vehicle promises to be able to drive on land, float on the surface of the water, and also dive to a depth of 10 meters

A Swiss company says it has developed the world’s first submersible car, directly inspired by James Bond’s Lotus in “The Spy Who Loved Me.” Named the sQuba, the vehicle promises to be able to drive on land, float on the surface of the water, and also dive to a depth of 10 meters (33 ft). Frank Rinderknecht, CEO of the manufacturer Rinspeed, will unveil the concept car at the Geneva motorshow, which starts on 6 March. Rinderknecht says that the sQuba was inspired by the Lotus Esprit that Roger Moore pilots underwater to escape pursuers in The Spy Who Loved Me. “For three decades I have tried to imagine how it might be possible to build a car that can fly under water”, said Rinderknecht. “Now we have made this dream come true.”

The Times’s Arion McNicoll writes that the car was constructed by Swiss engineering company Esoro, with which Rinspeed have collaborated in the past on several outlandish concept vehicles, including 2004’s Rinspeed Splash, an amphibious car which transforms to become a hydrofoil on the water. Rinspeed says that the submersible vehicle is capable of “stabile flight” at a depth of 10 meters. “It is undoubtedly not an easy task to make a car watertight and pressure resistant enough to be maneuverable under water. The real challenge however was to create a submersible car that moves like a fish in water.” The roadster apparently replaces a conventional combustion engine with several electric motors. Three motors are located in the rear, one powering the car on land, and the other two operate under water. These engines are supported by two Seabob jet drives in the front, which “breathe” through special rotating slats. The occupants’ breathing air comes from an integrated tank of compressed air. “For safety reasons we have built the vehicle as an open car so that the occupants can get out quickly in an emergency. With an enclosed cabin opening the door might be impossible,” said Rinderknecht.

Manufacturers claim that the sQuba is capable of autonomous driving. According to the company’s Web site “the concept car no longer needs a driver — made possible by laser technology from the Hamburg-based company, Ibeo. Ibeo LUX laser scanners represent the vehicle’s intelligent eyes and safely steer the vehicle through road traffic.” In keeping with the current trend toward environmentally friendly vehicles, the sQuba aims at being a zero emission car, powered by rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries.