sQuba: Talk about off-roading!


Over the years, car manufacturers have repeatedly tried to take cars off the road, up in the air, and into the water. While air-cars never really caught on, the idea of a car/boat hybrid is just a little too hard to resist, and water cars have gone into production a few times. The first mass-produced model, Quandt's Amphibicar, was made between 1963 and 1968. While only 3,878 were produced, many are still on the road. In fact, a mint-condition Amphibicar sold for $115,000 in 2006. Although it looked quite cool, the amphibicar was underpowered, difficult to steer, and prone to body rust. Still, it was a great idea.

In 2004, Gibbs Technologies released the Gibbs Aquada, a combination car/boat that was capable of land speeds of up to 100 mph and water speeds of up to 30 knots. Billionaire Richard Branson used an Aquada to break the speed record for an English Channel crossing. In the last four years, Gibbs has also released the Gibbs Humdinga, an amphibious SUV, and the Gibbs Quadski, a combination motorcycle/jetski. While none of these are currently available in the United States, plans are underway to begin selling the Aquada in 2009. The expected price will be $85,000.

All of this is prelude to what might just be the coolest thing ever. For those of us who drooled over James Bond's submersible Lotus Esprit in 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me, the Rinspeed sQuba is probably the most exciting thing in this year's Geneva Motor Show. A combination automobile/submarine, the sQuba is an electric car that uses rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and three electric motors for propulsion. Capable of diving up to 32 feet below the surface of the water, it moves at a stately 1.8 miles per hour while submerged and, in the words of its inventor, "moves like a fish." Unlike Bond's Lotus, the sQuba has an open cockpit; occupants must breathe compressed air through built-in scuba masks. So, unless they can hunt up waterproof tuxedos, any would-be Bonds will be piloting this one in bathing suits!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He's still trying to perfect the "submersible sandwich." It's not going too well.