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Transportation Technology

Elon Musk Making a Working Version of James Bond's Submersible Car 91

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-mr.-bond,-i-expect-you-to-sink dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "In The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), James Bond is given a Lotus Espirit S1 that doubles as a submarine. More than thirty years after that movie's release, a contractor opened up a random Long Island storage container to find one of the automobile-submarines used in filming. He promptly put it up for auction, and Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk purchased it for a cool $866,000. But Musk isn't planning to restore the Bond car and put it in a garage somewhere: he wants to make it run. 'It was amazing as a little kid in South Africa to watch James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me drive his Lotus Esprit off a pier, press a button and have it transform into a submarine underwater,' Tesla PR wrote in a statement to Jalopnik. 'I was disappointed to learn that it can't actually transform. What I'm going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real.' Whether that means Musk will install new equipment in the actual prop, or have his engineers build a seaworthy replica, is an open question. What's more certain is that Musk has the capability (and cash) to make something like that happen, considering how he already manages the construction of next-generation electric cars and reusable rockets for a living."
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Elon Musk Making a Working Version of James Bond's Submersible Car

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  • by stooo (2202012) on Friday October 18, 2013 @02:42PM (#45167837)

    What could possibly go wrong ???

    • Yes, let's just run our submarines on sensible, safe things, like plutonium.

    • True, although at least it solves the problem of them setting on fire.

      • Wouldn't they just burn because they get the chemicals for the reaction from themselves, or the sea water? The internet suggests this reaction would take place and the lithium would burn just the same.
        • by suutar (1860506)
          If you have enough water, it can absorb enough heat to prevent the reaction. Tesla's guide for first responders says, essentially, if you have a large supply of water (hydrant, not truck tank) you can cool the fire down enough to go out. If you don't have a large supply, just protect the surroundings while the car burns.
        • Lithium ion batteries do not contain metallic lithium.

          The flammable part of the battery is the organic solvent in the electrolyte.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      How hard could it be? (Top Gear did it last year)

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfOwSTXP-3o [youtube.com]

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      We're talking Elon Musk of Tesla fame here, not Fisker. Teslas at least don't catch fire when exposed to water.

  • Being from the Bay Area, it would be really cool to drive from, say Palo Alto to Emeryville (Steve Jobs' old commute) on or under the bay. Would probably be quicker than going through traffic.

    • by Megahard (1053072)

      Especially with BART on strike.

    • by cusco (717999)

      Hell of a lot more fun, too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Can you imagine the havoc it would cause when GPS directions get added for underwater routes?

      • Already there:

        Numerous motorists following bad GPS directions have driven their vehicles into bodies of water. Three Japanese tourists in Australia were persuaded by their GPS that they could drive to North Stradbroke Island at low tide (it’s actually accessible to cars only by ferry) and got stuck in the mud flats of Moreton Bay. They abandoned the car before the returning tide submerged it.
        A Senegalese man driving through Spain wasn’t so lucky. He was following GPS directions at night when the

      • by drkim (1559875) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @01:53AM (#45172831)

        Can you imagine the havoc it would cause when GPS directions get added for underwater routes?

        Apple Maps already has that capability.

        It wasn't supposed to have it... but it does.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Being from the Bay Area, it would be really cool to drive from, say Palo Alto to Emeryville (Steve Jobs' old commute) on or under the bay. Would probably be quicker than going through traffic.

      You may want to spend more time here [fastamphibians.com].

  • slashdot's software would never allow a post long enough to list the reasons why it is totally impossible to turn this car into a submarine. It is somewhat like my Dad's joke of "jack the radiator cap up and slide another vehicle under it".

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But there already exists submersible cars, this wouldn't be the first.
      One I remember, it works as a car, a boat, a sub and sadly not a helicopter / VTOL, that would be great if it could.
      I forgot the name of the one I saw recently on Gadget Man on Channel4 in the UK, but it was a rather nice.

      And of course, I cannot fail to link this, Top Gear submersible experiment [youtube.com].

      • by rubycodez (864176)

        correct, I'm saying the car that is the subject of this article cannot be made into one. not without replacing everything

    • Most submarines are battery-operated. Tell me why a guy who knows batteries fairly well can't make a submarine work.

      • I don't think it is impossible, but there will definitely be a lot of hurdles. If I recall, to get it to transform, you'll need the planes to somehow come out from the wheel wells and be controllable. You'll need the shutters to slid into place over every window. Keeping the cabin water tight will be fun while still having it function properly out of the water (most subs don't have conventional doors for instance). Of course you need air supply and ballast control, as well as the rudders and props. Def
      • by rubycodez (864176)

        issue isn't whether a submarine car is possible, I'm saying THAT CAR cannot be made into a submarine with any amount of engineering other than complete replacement. Do you even know the basics of how a submarine works and must be designed?

        • http://www.lotusespritturbo.com/James_Bonds_Lotus_Esprit_S1.htm [lotusespritturbo.com]
          it wasn't CGI, it was a submarine. A prop, but somewhat working, if not as the movie claims.

          " Do you even know the basics of how a submarine works and must be designed?"
          Common fallacy of assuming that because you have an informed opinion, someone appearing to disagree with you must have an uninformed one. Do I need to get started on quiet dynamic ballast adjustment techniques to maintain depth in SSBNs when crossing thermals?

    • Top Gear has already beaten him to it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xfOwSTXP-3o#t=30 [youtube.com]
  • by depressedrobot (1067078) on Friday October 18, 2013 @03:04PM (#45168113)
    Please be a benevolent overlord Elon.
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday October 18, 2013 @03:06PM (#45168151) Homepage

    That movie had a roadable version of the car and a submersible version, but not one that could do both. The submersible version wasn't dry; the operator was wearing scuba gear.

    I'm starting to worry that Elon Musk is getting spread too thin. Space-X, Tesla, Hyperloop, automatic driving, plus this. We really need for Space-X and Tesla to succeed.

    • I'm starting to worry that Elon Musk is getting spread too thin. Space-X, Tesla, Hyperloop, automatic driving, plus this. We really need for Space-X and Tesla to succeed.

      Maybe the key to success will ultimately lie in Musk giving those businesses (and the people who run them day-to-day) the space they need to make their own decisions.

    • by Andrio (2580551) on Friday October 18, 2013 @03:44PM (#45168741)

      It seems to me that this is purely just a very rich person having a fun side project. He's not planning on a fleet of submersible Tesla's or anything like that. He just wants a toy from his childhood fantasy.

      • by bitt3n (941736)

        It seems to me that this is purely just a very rich person having a fun side project. He's not planning on a fleet of submersible Tesla's or anything like that. He just wants a toy from his childhood fantasy.

        we should start to worry when he buys the death star prop and is disappointed to find it doesn't actually work.

      • Sure. It starts off as a simple project to have fun with his engineers (probably worth the money, just to keep the engineers happy).

        Then a couple years down the line he comes out with something that is marketable.

        My dad always wanted to buy a boat but just couldn't justify it. Imagine having the option of an electric car that could turn into a submarine?

        My thought: Next he's going to invest in biosphere research. Then a completely self-sufficient underwater biodome. Then a moon dome.

        We may be in the mi

  • Love it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kookus (653170) on Friday October 18, 2013 @03:26PM (#45168437) Journal

    It's pretty difficult to keep good talent at organizations. Especially when you get into the grind of a single goal and day in and day out it's the same thing.
    Having a boss that might step in 1 day that and say hey, instead of working on that problem you've been on for a while, how about you work on making this car into a submarine. Thanks.
    That would be awesome, adds spice into the mix, and helps make people reconsider ever wanting to leave their organization.

    Hopefully that's the motivation behind this moreso than the I'm farting so much money now I can't find enough ways to spend it kind of thing!

    • i've been in organizations where the manager steps in occasionally a redirects efforts to his pet projects. it can derail other efforts and cause people to ask why they are trying, even if the interrupting project seems cool to some. i saw many people leave that organization as a result. so it really depends on how it's done.

  • by SethJohnson (112166) on Friday October 18, 2013 @03:49PM (#45168799) Homepage Journal
    The original submarine that Musk bought was a lightweight shell that housed a scuba diver inside. It was not watertight. It was propelled by battery-powered propellers controlled by the diver. This is why the windows were covered with the louvers- so the audience couldn't see that James and his lady weren't just sitting inside the car breathing air.

    Musk is going to have to create an entirely separate construction if he wants something that can withstand the torque of the Tesla drivetrain and support passengers, etc. It will be easier starting with a Lotus Esprit and then making it into a watertight submersible than the other way around.

    I much rather see billionaires spend their money on pursuits like this than building superyachts to park in Monaco. Kudos to Musk!
  • Am I the only one picturing Elon Musk sitting in a chair with a white cat in his lap now?
    • by dpilot (134227)

      For all of the comparisons happening, comparing Musk to Blofeld (here) and other people in other places, this topic brings up another much older one...

      Robur the Conqueror

  • by FridayBob (619244) on Friday October 18, 2013 @05:22PM (#45169899) Homepage

    There have always been numerous problems with that famous Bond car. For example, it was light enough to be agile like a sports car, but it was nevertheless heavy enough to sink despite having a cabin being largely filled with air. And, what about its pressure hull: how could it be light-weight with a flattened shape, yet still be strong enough to withstand several atmospheres of pressure? By all rights it should be crushed at just a few meters depth. In many ways, making a spacecraft is easier than making a submarine.

    On the other hand, if the aim is still to keep the car as light and sporty as possible, it seems to me that an amphibious sports car would be much more do-able, especially if it were to make use of hydrofoils, instead of relying on a streamlined hull, to make it travel more quickly through the water. It might not even be necessary to retract the wheels; just as long as it would remain afloat when sitting on the water and tend to keep its nose up when under power.

  • by jaa101 (627731) <James.Ashton@ashtons.id.au> on Friday October 18, 2013 @06:56PM (#45170639)

    The fundamental engineering problem here is that cars float and submarines sink. Ballasting that car with enough weight so it's close to neutrally buoyant will ensure it performs nothing like a sports car on the road. This is the kind of issue that made lead acid batteries such a great choice for submarines in the first place.

    The best approach is going to involve minimising the volume where water is excluded, i.e., ensuring that as much of the vehicle is flooded by water as possible when it dives. At least, as a sports car, the interior is very small so they may have a chance of making it work.

  • Seriously, even though this project is kind of pointless aside from the cool factor, everything else he's involved in just reeks of eccentric billionaire tycoon.

    I'll build my own rocketships. I'll mass produce my own electric car. I'll design some whacky futuristic train.

    He's the closest thing we'll ever get to Tony Stark.

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