Amphibious Vehicles: Try, Try Again

Remember when Sir Richard Branson made headlines in his black, ocean-going aqua-car? In 2003 he set a record for crossing the English Channel in an Aquada, yet another “car of the future” which promises to give drivers the option of getting to their destination by land or sea.

Unfortunately, that was almost a decade ago and as of now the Aquada is still not ready for mass market production. The company that makes the Aquada, Gibbs, said they are still planning to make a consumer version available, but first must overcome problems with United States environmental and safety standards and possibly rules put in place by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Among the problems they need to overcome in production of their three-seat Aquada are salt-water tolerant electrical systems and air bags. The company has said it is working with these groups to find a solution and is confident a solution will be found sooner rather than later. In the meantime, while plans for the Aquada remain shelved, Gibbs said it will release a new amphibious vehicle called the Quadski in 2013.

Amphibious vehicles have been around for decades. In 1961-1965, 4,000 ‘Amphicars’ were released in the United States. The vehicle was road worthy and drivers were able to drive it into nearby lakes or calm rivers and shock passengers (and anyone watching them drive into the water.) Produced by the Quandt Group specifically for the U.S. market, the Amphicar is still considered the most successful civilian amphibious vehicle mass-produced. In fact, it is only the one which made it to the “mass-produced” stage, and 4,000 vehicles is not a stunning claim to fame.

As difficult as it has been to make a flying car available to the consumer market, amphibious vehicles have shared much the same fate. The fact is, trying to meet current safety and environmental standards imposed on automobiles for boats and planes is a bit of a stretch. If companies can find a way to bridge this gap we might all one day be flying, driving or boating around our world.