The Rinspeed Snap explores future-proofing with a modular electric vehicle

Rinspeed sQuba (TWB 2008).jpg

One doesn't normally think of the Swiss as terribly eccentric, but you could make an exception for Rinspeed boss Frank Rinderknecht. Some of his past creations have been pretty out there, like the sQuba, which started out as a Lotus Elise and ended up a fully electric vehicle that could also dive underwater.
Or the Ʃtos, based on a BMW i8 hybrid but with its own drone that can deliver flowers. But interspersed among the wackiness are some clever ideas. In 2009, the company's iChange used an iPhone as a key and controller—sorry Tesla fans, Elon didn't think of that one first! And at this year's Detroit auto show we also saw the Oasis, an adaptable, autonomous city vehicle that bridges the gap between Blade Runner and our current timeline.
By the standards of some of those past creations, Rinspeed's latest work is almost entirely sane. It's called the Snap, and it's a modular vehicle made up of a "skateboard" and "pod." The impetus behind the Snap was to address the fact that some automotive components now have much shorter lifecycles than we're used to. Software, processors, and batteries soon become obsolete in a way that analog gauges or steel body panels never will. So the pod is built to last and to function when detached from the skateboard, which in turn has been designed to be recycled after a short-but-intensive life.
Rinspeed hasn't been working alone, and the Snap is meant to showcase the work of some of its partners, like Harman and ZF. It's envisaged as a level 5 autonomous vehicle—no steering wheel or pedals here—with a built-in digital "personal assistant," an "intelligent robot to accompany the occupants." Rinspeed says that the assistant will even "be happy to help with running errands, carrying purchases, or handle other tedious tasks." Hey, I did say the Snap was almost sane.
There's no suggested price or date for production—Rinspeed isn't that kind of design house. But it is very good at making the rest of us think about the evolving role of our transport. I can't wait to see it at CES in a couple of weeks.ZF supplies a lot of the technology that goes into the skateboard, which Rinspeed calls the "Intelligent Dynamic Driving Chassis." It's designed for urban driving and maximum range, so the electric motor (which drives the rear wheels) is just 50kW (67hp). The front axle uses the same EasyTurn steering system as the Oasis, which lets the wheels achieve a steering angle of up to 75 degrees, and the rear wheels can also steer up to 14 degrees. This would make the Snap a lot more nimble than its wheelbase would suggest.

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