Icona concept offers eco-friendly transport on water and land
By Paul Ridden
October 5, 2010
Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to create vehicles that operate on both land and water. It's fair to say that such designs have generally not caught on. Perhaps it's because of the fairly limited effectiveness of some of those offerings, or maybe it's because so many of them have been ugly monsters. Then again, it could be that society just hasn't found a niche for them yet. By the year 2050 though, we may need to give such craft some serious consideration. Juan Pablo Bernal P has come up with a concept design that certainly ticks all the right boxes for looks, and also takes the environment into consideration.
There have been some water/land craft that have caught our attention, and our imagination, in the past. Certainly one of the most impressive was the WaterCar Python which sped along at 120mph (193km/h) on land and upwards of 60mph (97km/h) on water. Most attempts, however, seem to have ended up looking like a boat with wheels or worse.
For his degree project at Umea Institute of Design in Sweden, which was sponsored by car manufacturer Opel, Juan Pablo Bernal P set himself the task of thinking ahead to the transport needs of people in the year 2050. Dealing with the likely environmental and social challenges ahead, the designer came up with a vehicle with "provocative lines and dynamic looks" that would provide an enjoyable and entertaining way of getting from A to B with as little impact on the environment as possible.
The Opel Icona is described as a family vehicle, yet there's only enough space for one adult, and maybe room for a child passenger directly in front. There are electric hub motors to the front and impeller drive to the rear, where a keel and sail are also concealed within the frame of the vehicle. When on the water, the rear wheels are drawn up to the body by the trailing suspension arms.
Being able to commute on both water and land, the designer sees such a vehicle opening up new habitation possibilities but, like most concept designs, this one asks more questions than it answers. For instance, Juan Pablo Bernal P does not reveal any significant details about the electric hub motors other than that they are placed at the front. Presumably such hub motors would be sealed against water penetration, but details are lacking.
Of course, mixing an electric motor with a drop or two of the wet stuff has already been done. Nevertheless, some sort of explanation would have been welcome.
Then there's the question of what exactly provides such a vehicle with the power it needs to head for open land or water. Given that there are quite a few years between now and when the designer sees such a vehicle being developed, presumably the Icona would take full advantage of whatever breaking, clean and efficient technologies are available at that time.
For now, I guess we just have to sit back and enjoy its beauty.