Rinspeed Splash (2004)
Under the ultra-light carbon-composite skin lies much more than just an agile and lively sports car. The Rinspeed “Splash” is the true incarnation of a really cool and fun sports toy. At the push of a button a cleverly thought-out hydraulic mechanism transforms the sports car into an amphibious vehicle. But that alone wasn’t enough for Frank M. Rinderknecht, founder and boss of Rinspeed. A highly complex integrated hydrofoil system enables the “Splash” to ‘fly’ at an altitude of about 60 cm above the water.
The almost magical transformation from a street vehicle into a floating and ‘flying’ all-rounder is made possible by an electronically controlled hydraulic system with an array of sophisticated sensors.
The transformation starts with the nondescript rear panel, which flips up to reveal a Z-drive in horizontal rest position, borrowed from a watercraft. The Z-drive is fitted with a conventional 3-bladed propeller and can be lowered to its fully ‘standing’ position from the cockpit. The position of the drive is infinitely variable, which guarantees immediate propulsion upon entering the water. A custom-designed transfer case sends power to the rear wheels, the propeller or both, depending on the input from the pilot. Starting at a water depth of about 1.1 meters the Z-drive can be lowered all the way to its fully ‘standing’ position. Steering commands are entered via the steering wheel and transferred to the Z-drive.
At a minimum water depth of about 1.3 meters the pilot can deploy a highly complex system of hydrofoils integrated into the sleek body of the “Splash.” The Formula-1 type rear spoiler rotates 180 degrees down and comes to rest below the “Splash.” To the left and right of the high side walls of the cockpit two hydrofoils integrated into the outside skin rotate 90 degrees to point straight down before unfolding into their lifting V shape.
The angle of attack of each hydrofoil can be adjusted individually by the pilot to account for the various operating states. Already at low speeds the vehicle begins to lift itself out of the water. The fully suspended position can be reached at speeds as low as 30 km/h. The unusual vehicle then travels as a true hydrofoil at an altitude of about 60 cm above the water. Even the wheels are free of water contact. On smooth water the “Splash” is capable of reaching a top speed of about 80 km/h (approx. 45 knots).
Naturally the “Splash” can also be operated as a ‘conventional’ amphibious vehicle. With retracted hydrofoils the “Splash” reaches a top speed of almost 50 km/h (approx. 28 knots). That is fast enough for water skiing or knee boarding.
The body of the “Splash” is designed to be watertight. Additional buoyancy chambers provide extra lift. Also borrowed from shipbuilding are a bulkhead design with independent chambers and bilge pumps – in case some water does find its way into the cockpit or the engine bay. Fourteen rubber bellows guarantee freedom of movement of drive train, suspension and steering.