Rinspeed sQuba: The Car Turns Deep-sea Diver
Rinspeed, the renowned Swiss tuner that specializes in tarting up Porsches, has developed the sQuba, which is capable of driving into the water, then going up to 10 meters (about 33 feet) beneath the waves. It first showed the car in 2008.
While the idea sounds preposterous, Rinspeed’s videos actually show the vehicle doing its underwater tricks.
Starting with a Lotus Elise, Rinspeed first removed the entire drivetrain, replacing it with an all-electric system, allowing the vehicle to be emissions free, even underwater.
Rinspeed founder Frank M. Rinderknecht said his inspiration for the car was the 1977 James Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me” in which Roger Moore as 007 drove a Lotus Esprit underwater. That car was mostly made with a bag of movie tricks. But the sQuba is real.
Rinderknecht said he fantasized about making a submersible car for three decades, the trick movie car running through his head.
One of the most surprising aspects of the sQuba is that the cockpit is open. The car’s two occupants breathe through scuba regulators similar to those that any diver would use. Rinderknecht said the open cockpit was a matter of design practicality. The air enclosed in the cockpit would have required the addition of two tons of dead weight to allow the car to dive. Safety was also a major consideration.
â€œWe 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,” Rinderknecht said.
Rinspeed went to great lengths to make sure the car was ecologically friendly. It even contracted with lubricants specialist Motorex for a biodegradable oil. StrÃ¤hle + Hess provided a saltwater-resistant interior. Sharp chipped in with a watertight electronic display.
The sQuba is powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries (please don’t plug in while underwater). Three motors are located in the rear. One provides propulsion on land, the others drive twin propellers for underwater motoring. They are supplemented by two powerful Seabob jet drives attached to the front fenders which also steer the car in water.
The 2,028-pound two-seater can accelerate to 80 km/h (50 mph) in 7.1 seconds and it has a top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph) on land. It can travel at 6 km/h (3.8 mph) in the water and 3 km/h (1.9 mph) submerged, so this is no speedster. The sQuba has a range of about 70 miles on land and three hours underwater.
For comparison, a standard Elise has a 189-horsepower, 1.8-liter four cylinder, which provides a 0-60 time of 4.9 seconds and has a top speed of 150 mph. It weighs 1,984 pounds and is rated at 21 mpg city, 27 highway. Base price: $47,250, but watch out; those options add up quickly.
Besides its show-stopping underwater capability, Rinspeed also fit the sQuba with a unique radar system that allows the car to drive autonomously, on the ground or underwater. Rinspeed’s video shows the driverless car traveling on a deserted road, stopping for a couple of pedestrians standing at the side of the road. While this technology sounds intriguing, independent tests have shown that there is much work to be done before cars are allowed to drive themselves on autopilot.
Don’t even ask about buying one. Rinderknecht has decided against building the car himself, although several people have contacted the company asking them to build one for them. He said the project cost about $1.5 million to develop.
“Quality and reliability (are) not manageable at small production figures in view of a reasonable price,” Rinderknecht said. “It will remain a one-off.”