The dream of mass-producing an amphibious car has been alive for more than 70 years — or at least since Volkswagen produced about 15,000 Schwimmwagens during World War II.
They cruised on land and in water. And the German army used them, but they only lasted for six weeks.
Now Gibbs Amphibians, the Auburn Hills, Mich.-based division of Britain’s Gibbs Technologies, has developed the Aquada, a sports car that can hit speeds of more than 100 mph on the road and then, with the press of a button, turn into a boat that can do more than 30 mph.
Click play to watch a report on the Aquada.
The Aquada was briefly in the international spotlight when adventurer and Virgin Airlines chairman Sir Richard Branson set a world record June 14, 2004, for the fastest crossing of the English Channel by an amphibious craft. At the wheel of a Gibbs Aquada, Branson eclipsed the previous record of six hours by more than four hours.
After hundreds of millions of dollars in investment, Gibbs is ready to bring the craft to mass production.
“It's a technology that could change the recreational boating industry, provide another transportation option and ease traffic congestion,” Gibbs chairman Neil Jenkins told The Wall Street Journal.
"Let's say you are in New Jersey and you want to get to New York City,” Jenkins says. Instead of waiting in a traffic jam at a bridge or tunnel "you simply slip into the water, drive across the water and come out on the other side."
What’s holding up that urban commuter’s dream mode of transportation are government regulations.
In the United States, air-bag sensors must be set according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards for the car to be approved for road use. But on the water those settings are too sensitive for a vessel running into waves.
Another problem is in the engine. The Environmental Protection Agency requires a catalyst to control emissions that can heat up to several hundred degrees. The Coast Guard bars anything even half that hot from operating in the engine compartment.
With the car-boat on hold, Gibbs is moving ahead with another mode of land and sea transportation — a PWC of sorts it calls the Quadski.