In response to a Twitter inquiry, Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently declared that the upcoming Cybertruck will “even float for a while.”
The Cybertruck has been envisioned as an off-road heavyweight vehicle pushed to its limits. Its ability to “float” like Musk stated in this tweet was related to wading through water, such as when an off-road vehicle would want to cross streams.
Back in 2016, Musk also tweeted about another Tesla model that might be able to float. “We *def* don’t recommended this, but Model S floats well enough to turn it into a boat for short periods of time. Thrust via wheel rotation.”
So these tweets got us thinking — why are we so fascinated with cars that float? What cars in popular culture have floated and appealed to our imaginations?
Yes. It will even float for a while.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 20, 2020
The Cybertruck: Designed for Endurance
The Tesla website describes the all-electric Cybertruck as such:
“Starting with a nearly impenetrable exoskeleton, every component is designed for superior strength and endurance, from Ultra-Hard 30X Cold-Rolled stainless-steel structural skin to Tesla armor glass.”
It is designed to absorb and redirect impact force for optimal performance and damage tolerance. The drivetrain and low center of gravity will provide “extraordinary” traction control and torque — enabling acceleration from 0–60 mph in as little as 2.9 seconds and up to 500 miles of range.
That maximum range will be enhanced by a large motor equipped to adaptive air suspension that raises and lowers suspension by 4 inches for easy camper additions, which made Musk and his Twitter followers think about the conditions of off-roading and the possibilities of floating on water — albeit briefly.
Fun Memories: The Lotus Esprit (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977)
Other vehicles have captured our desire to push the limits of the pavement.
The sleek, powerful Lotus Esprit was featured in a long chase sequence in the James Bond classic, The Spy Who Loved Me. Set on the Italian island of Sardinia, our beloved agent was in real trouble. Seeing only water ahead, the inimitable James Bond says to his delightful female passenger, “Can you swim?” The Lotus dives off the pier and plunges into the ocean, ultimately converting into a submarine.
The Lotus submarine was complete with tail fins and periscope, so Bond is able to blast the pursuing helicopter out of the sky with a sea-to-air missile.
Incidentally, Elon Musk bought that movie prop years ago, and it was present at the Tesla Cybertruck unveiling event. Here it is photographed by our own Kyle Field for CleanTechnica:
Cars that Float: Amphicar and Hovercar
Perhaps you who are reading this aren’t old enough to remember (I’m not), but the Amphicar first made its appearance in 1961 at the New York Auto Show. Land and water capability were possible, with the engine driving the rear wheels on land and 2 propellers moving the car when it was in the water. The convertible is a 4-seater and powered by a rear-mounted, 4 cylinder Triumph Herald engine of 1,147 cc, which generated 43 hp. Reports indicate the top land speed of the Amphicar ranged anywhere from 65 mph to 90 mph.
Once Disney Springs reopens after the COVID-19 shutdowns, you can take a guided, 25-minute tour of the facility in one of the Amphicars that were purchased from private collections worldwide — less than 400 exist worldwide today.
And while they don’t float on water, Hovercraft are air-cushioned vehicles that are amphibious craft capable of transcending land travel by gliding over water, mud, and ice. They use blowers to produce a large volume of air below the hull that is slightly above atmospheric pressure, which produces lift and which causes the hull to float above the running surface.
Captain America films have scenes with Hovercraft, and Star Wars takes the Hovercraft to a new level in its films. If you’re interested in seeing a compilation of films that incorporate Hovercraft, check out these Huntley Film Archives.
Popular culture has captured our imaginations and the possibilities for floating in many ways, both in water and over land. Elon Musk recognizes our fascination with defying the principles of physics — after all, he’s done it for years with all-electric transportation, hasn’t he?