Rinspeed

Even if you've never heard of Swiss automotive think tank Rinspeed, don't be surprised if you've seen some of their funky concepts before. Since 1979, they have put out more than twenty concept vehicles that challenge the status quo of transportation. Many of their ideas are wild. But they don't just theorize them as drawings on paper, they actually build them. A famous Walt Disney quote is proudly displayed on Rinspeed's website that says, "If you can dream it, you can do it." Rinspeed has stayed true to that mantra.
The ideas come from Rinspeed's founder, Frank Rinderknecht. At the beginning, Frank imported sunroofs from the U.S. and modified cars in Europe. He also made conversion cars for handicapped drivers. This was the start, but modifying cars like Porsches and Subarus made Rinspeed its name as an automobile manufacturer and designer. Throughout their lifetime, Rinspeed's crew sought out new ways to innovate in the automotive field, foreseeing many of the advancements that we use today like steering wheel controls, rear seat entertainment, and mobile office, to name a few.

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Focusing more on inventing new products and trends, Frank and team began building concept cars that deviated from normal design. Some of their concepts can go underwater, carry personal watercraft, or even stretch their wheelbase on the fly. And, while none of the designs ever became mainstream, that was never the point. The point was to get people thinking.

Most of Rinspeed's concepts debuted in the bright spotlight of the Geneva Motor Show, the largest and most famous in Europe. In 2006, Rinspeed showed a Porsche with a transparent hardtop named zaZen. The car was designed entirely around a spirit of transparency. And now vehicles like the Range Rover Evoque are coming to the market with a very similar transparent roof. And further down the road, many more are sure to follow.

Rinspeed sCuba

One car that we showed in our episode can actually dive underwater. It isn't a typical use case for a car to need to travel underwater--unless you're 007--but, as the idea is now out there, there could be uses for some of the design. Instead of the typical way one would conceive an underwater vehicle, Rinspeed decided to make the sQuba topless. If a seal were to break on a fully-enclosed car, then then the entire submersible would be ruined and the occupants put in harm's way, but by going topless, Rinspeed has resolved that part of the equation. The occupants get air from integrated lines connected to an onboard air tank, and are able to get out and explore the sea if so desired. Energy for underwater propulsion comes from rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which power propellers off the aft of sQuba.

Rinspeed Presto

Another car covered in our episode was the Presto--the car that can extend to fit more passengers. This odd vehicle satisfies the need for both a small urban commuter and a larger passenger-friendly car. The Presto can transform itself from a 9.8 ft long 2-seater to a 12.3 ft 4-seater in a matter of seconds. A push of a button sends the tail end out, making room for rear passengers. The transformation is made possible by a center-mounted electric motor that turns rollers on rails apart. Surprisingly, the engineers were able to design an adjustable floor pan that didn't interfere with torsional rigidity. And to top it all off, Presto is a roadster. Once the frame is extended, special safety latches engage and prevent Presto from becoming an accordion in an accident.

The ideas from Frank and the rest of the Rinspeed team might sound out of this world. But sometimes it takes these outrageous ideas for anything to ever change. We can try to improve our cars incrementally every year, or we can take big steps with new ways of looking at the industry. Even if we don't really need cars that dive underwater.