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007's underwater car a reality

That's because the Rinspeed sQuba can literally dive under the water and continue to operate submerged, just like a submarine.

Rinspeed boss Frank M. Rinderknecht, 52, is known for his extraordinary automotive creations.

The company has produced many concept cars over the years, including the amphibious Splash from 2004 but none of them quite like this one.

For years Rinderknecht, an acknowledged James Bond enthusiast and Swiss automobile visionary, has dreamed of producing an underwater car like the one featured in the 1977 Bond film the Spy Who Loved Me.

The Bond car was of course a fake, the clever creation of computer animation but what if Rinderknecht wondered . . .

“For three decades I have tried to imagine how it might be possible to build a car that can fly under water. Now we have made this dream come true,” he said.

Visitors to this year's Geneva Motor Show, which kicks off on March 6 will be able to see this amazing vehicle for the first time.

The donor vehicle looks suspiciously like a Lotus Elise, but that's where any similarity ends.

No Lotus could do what this car can.

The first step was to remove the car's internal combustion engine which has been replaced by electric motors. Three motors are located in the rear. One of these provides propulsion on land, while the other two drive the screws that propel the car underwater. They are supported by two powerful Seabob jet drives in the front, which breathe through special rotating louvers (for opening and closing the water intake).

Powered by electricity, sQuba is a zero-emission car as documented by the rotating license plate in the rear. It produces no exhaust emissions.

Rinderknecht said the real challenge was to create not just a submersible car, but one that could not remain agile and responsive under the water. Of course, true to the Bond formula, it also had to be a sports car.

Once again Rinderknecht enlised the services of Swiss engineering company Esoro to oversee the project. Esoro was responsible for project management, implementation of new technologies, engineering, rendering, design and the manufacturing.

sQuba is just under 3.8 metres long, with a body constructed from light weight components made of Carbon Nano Tubes and weighs in at 920kg.

The elecric motor that drive the rear wheels puts out 54kW of power at 4500rpm and 160Nm of torque from 1500rpm. In the water, the electric motors that power the stern propellers push out 800 watts a piece while the bow jet drives are rated at 3.6kW each.

Power is supplied by six, 48 watt rechargable Lithium-ion batteries.

The car has a top speed of 120km/h and sprints from 0 to 100km/h in 7.1 seconds. That's on land.

On or under the sQuba can travel up to 6km/h on the surface but that speed drops to 3km/h once it dives, which it can do to depth of 10 metres.

When you drive the car into the water intially it remains afloat, that is until you crack the door to let in the water. That's when things start to get interesting. Occupants are able to breath with air supplied from integrated tank of compressed air, just like scuba divers.

For safety reasons it was decided early in the piece to build an open top vehicle so that the occupants could get out quickly in the event of an emergency.

Without anyone aboard, the sQuba surfaces automatically.

If that's not enough, the car is even capable of driving by itself on land, thanks to a sophisticated laser sensor system.

The vehicle features powerful yet energy-saving LED lighting technology.

sQuba features stainless coil-over suspension from KW automotive and large Pirelli tires mounted on custom-made forged light-weight wheels from AEZ, with 17- and 18-inch diameters.

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