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Rinspeed sQuba takes it to the next (sea) level

Breaking News

Three electric motors, stationed in the rear of the vehicle, take the place of a combustion engine.
Rinspeed Squba

photo from Rinspeed

by Ross Bonander

Specs:

  • Type: 100% electric submersible
  • Class: 2-seat sportscar
  • Manufacturer: Rinspeed
  • Propulsion system: 54 kW electric motor; 2 x 800 W electric propellers at the stern; 2 x 3.6 kW Rotinor bow jet drives for diving
  • Top road speed: 74 mph (120 km/h)
  • Top water speed: On water, 3.7 mph (6 km/h); Under water, 1.8 mph (3 km/h)
  • Maximum dive depth: 10 meters
  • Zero-to-80 km/h: 7.1 seconds
  • Vehicle range: NA
  • Fuel(s): Electricity
  • Battery system: 6 x 48 V Lithium-lonen
  • Time to full battery recharge: NA
  • Tailpipe emissions: No
  • Price: NA
  • Availability: Currently in concept only

The manufacturer says

"The sQuba lets me be one with the elements and lets me immerse myself in a new and fascinating world - with Q factor. It is our duty to protect this world in which we are guests to the best of our ability."

Overview

Based on the Lotus Elise, the Rinspeed sQuba made its debut at the 2008 Geneva Auto Show and is the world’s first real submersible car. It is also the first car that likely requires both a valid driver’s license and scuba certification to operate.

The sQuba has a steel chassis with carbon nano tubes for body panels. Three electric motors, stationed in the rear of the vehicle, take the place of a combustion engine. One does the work on land, and the other two do the work under water, and they get added support from a pair of Seabob jet drives at the front of the vehicle.

It is a permanent convertible—for good reasons: an enclosed cabin presents safety issues when the car submerges, and the air in that cabin would create too much buoyancy to reasonably overcome under water. According to Rinderknecht, two cubic meters of cabin air required a two-ton increase in vehicle weight, “giving the sQuba the land mobility of a turtle."

What we like

The audacity. In 1977 one scene from The Spy Who Loved Me enthralled moviegoers: James Bond and the Lotus Esprit he was driving plunge into the sea and—holy smokes!—converted into a submarine vehicle. Frank Rinderknecht was watching, was inspired, and did something few can claim to have done: he actually turned one of 007’s famous gadgets into the real deal.

The interior. Strähle + Hess developed a salt-water resistant interior (the ‘Q Factor’) that KGS Diamond hooked up with mother-of-pearl trim and diamond-plated non-slip inlays.

The laser driving. The sQuba solves the problem of drivers falling asleep on the road by permitting autonomous driving—Ibeo of Hamburg developed a laser sensor system that, it would seem, allows the occupants to catch some shut-eye and still reach their destination. I like this feature because this is a concept car. In reality, it’s a scary thought.

The video. If you think this concept car doesn’t work, go to rinspeed.com, click on concept cars, find the sQuba and watch this spectacular Bond-esque video of the sQuba at work: from road to water, scuba gear on, submerge, enter some aquarium-type music, then back on the road. The guy looks like a B-movie James Brolin and the token blonde with him is hot enough to be a real Bond girl.

What we don’t

The point. The late British comic Bob Monkhouse used to say, “People laughed when I said I’d become a comedian. They’re not laughing now." Well I’ll bet people laughed when Swiss-born Frank Rinderknecht declared in 1979 that he would make a submersible car. Some of them are at least grinning now, because this vehicle is three decades in the making, and despite being an absolute engineering marvel, I just don’t see the point—would it be good for a shortcut across the Atlantic, across Lake Tahoe, or to the other end of a large swimming pool? In other words, what are the practical applications of the sQuba’s countless miraculous technologies?

Conclusions

The sQuba is a true joint effort: Rinspeed partnered with, among others, German alloy wheel manufacturer AEZ for salt-resistance wheels, Pirelli tires, Luxury Swiss watchmaker Carl F. Bucherer for materials and design, and Foliatec.com for styling and development, Swiss firm Esoro for engineering (and as general contractor), and the Wetzel Processing Group and Hornschuch for patterns and design. Seabob, VDO, HS Genion, Motorex, KW automotive, and Sharp also contributed. I probably left some out, but this isn’t the Academy Awards.

I can’t begin to imagine how much the sQuba cost to put together. Must be in the half-million range, at least. If nothing else, it’s hard not to appreciate the willingness to drop so much cash on a concept car this outlandishly daring.


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