Monday, March 5, 2012

News Update Amphibious Vehicles

MANILA, Philippines - In nature, an animal that can exist on both land and water - without being saddled by the usual gamut of locomotive and respiratory problems - is classified as an amphibian. Extending this to the technology of the modern world, I guess that a vehicle that can perform its main duty - transporting a given number of people over both land and water - with relative ease deserves this appellation.
There was one James Bond movie in particular that featured a Lotus car taking a route that only littoral submarines usually take under water, and then surfacing at the beach to the surprise of the people lounging or lazing there. Just like Buck Rogers and Dick Tracy both featured equipment that now seem commonplace, we have seen a number of inventions that try to bridge the gap between water and land.
Both media would seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum, especially since vehicles designed to traverse both would have to move without effort, especially in the case of land vehicles having to take to water.
There are many manufacturers out there, but one can cite at least a couple: The Aquada of Gibbs Technologies and the SeaRoader. The latter claims to be able to produce a suitable vehicle for you depending on your need within the span of six weeks. The Aquada, on the other hand, is ready to go but has had to deal with the usual dimwits in the bureaucracy who are now demanding that the vehicle pass emission and crash requirements and other nonsense applicable separately to land and sea-going craft!
Am not sure whether this applies, but in some circumstances, small-scale specialty manufacturers are allowed some leeway by regulatory authorities in some countries, provided, of course, that the vehicles exhibit inherent safe handling capabilities.
On the other hand, both the SeaRoader manufacturer and some others I read up on, offer kits that one can use on a donor vehicle - usually jeep or small truck type vehicles - that render such waterproof and capable of moving at decent speeds on land and about 5 - 6 mph in the water. Which particular equipment to buy will depend on one's need and the cost of the undertaking. The prices range from about $2k to about 10k excluding the cost of the donor vehicle.
There are so many technical questions relating to the choice of vehicle, the mode of propulsion, e.g. a Toyota diesel engine for land use and a Honda two or four stroke engine for the water propulsion system, waterproofing, and so forth.
What is important is to know that such a vehicle would be wonderful to have with the prospect of long rainy seasons and the unusual wet weather we seem to be having this time of the year. In case of a flood or the need to negotiated some waterlogged streets, an amphibian would prove useful indeed. I can remember some instances when we had to backtrack because certain roads were flooded beyond the fording ability of most vehicles, short of the dedicated SUVs designed for such tough work. I saw cute CUVs, those crossover vehicles that pretend to do SUV work end up stranded by the wayside or end up spewing black smoke, indicating serious trouble indeed.
Unless one wants to invest in a small canoe or dinghy with a small engine capable to fording flooded areas. The problem is what to do once one hits dry land, hit water again, and come across deep water all over again. This is where an amphibian beat one and all in its versatility!