Amphibious vehicles could soon be zooming out of James Bond's garage - or pond - and into consumers' homes.
The Quadski - a one-person all-terrain vehicle that doubles as a personal watercraft - is being billed by its makers as the first high-speed, commercially available amphibious vehicle. It's scheduled to go on sale in the United States by the end of this year for around US$40,000. Michigan-based Gibbs Sports Amphibians hopes to sell the vehicle worldwide by 2014.
With its all-terrain tyres and four-cylinder, BMW-supplied engine, the Quadski can drive up to 72 kilometres per hour on land. To take it into the water, the driver presses a button. In five seconds, the four wheels fold up and tuck into the sides. The Quadski can go just as fast in the water, before the press of a button brings the wheels out again.
"You just drive straight into the water, quite fast, and keep on going. It's sort of magic," the founder of Gibbs Sports Amphibians, Alan Gibbs, said.
History is littered with attempts to make fast, long-lasting amphibious cars, from the campy German Amphicar of the early 1960s to current companies that rework sports cars by hand for US$200,000 or more. But Gibbs, a former diplomat and entrepreneur from New Zealand, says the Quadski is the first land vehicle for sale that can go more than 16 km/h in water. A lightweight, fibreglass hull and front wheels that rise mechanically when the vehicle hits the water are among the Quadski features.
Gibbs launched Gibbs Sports Amphibians 16 years ago after building his own amphibious car and wondering if he could make it on a larger scale. Since then, the company has spent US$200 million, built nine prototypes and amassed more than 300 patents.
"It seems so simple, but it's really difficult," Gibbs said.
The Quadski isn't Gibbs' first vehicle. That honour belongs to the three-seat Aquada, which debuted in 2003 and goes 160 km/h on land and 48km/h in the water.
But the Aquada never went on sale.
The Quadski will be made at Gibbs' Auburn Hills, Michigan, factory. Gibbs chairman and CEO Neil Jenkins said the company planned to produce 20 Quadskis per day once the plant was in full operation. The company expects to sell around 1,000 Quadskis in the first year.
"We'll respond to how the market develops," he said. "We [are] confident people will love them."