Automotive

Concept One: Floating the idea of a semi-amphibious vehicle

Concept One: Floating the idea...
Hideo Tsurumaki CEO of FOMM, with his first creation, Concept One (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
Hideo Tsurumaki CEO of FOMM, with his first creation, Concept One (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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Hideo Tsurumaki CEO of FOMM, with his first creation, Concept One (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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Hideo Tsurumaki CEO of FOMM, with his first creation, Concept One (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
Hideo Tsurumaki's vision is for a city car that was capable of keeping you afloat and getting you back to shore in times of flooding (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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Hideo Tsurumaki's vision is for a city car that was capable of keeping you afloat and getting you back to shore in times of flooding (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
Entry and exit for the driver and rear passengers is very easy through the sliding side doors, says Hideo Tsurumaki (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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Entry and exit for the driver and rear passengers is very easy through the sliding side doors, says Hideo Tsurumaki (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
The front dashboard space is dominated by the cooling system which is very necessary in such a small vehicle for hot climates (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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The front dashboard space is dominated by the cooling system which is very necessary in such a small vehicle for hot climates (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
No foot controls mean that the driver can sit forward, increasing rear passenger space (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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No foot controls mean that the driver can sit forward, increasing rear passenger space (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
The driver controls are arranged in a handle bar style, similar to mobility vehicles (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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The driver controls are arranged in a handle bar style, similar to mobility vehicles (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
Hideo Tsurumaki is very proud of his first creation from FOMM and sees it as a great start for his company (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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Hideo Tsurumaki is very proud of his first creation from FOMM and sees it as a great start for his company (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
On the left is a Toyota Coms, a super compact single seat Electric vehicle that Hideo Tsurumaki worked on at Toyota. The four seat Concept One is not that much bigger. (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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On the left is a Toyota Coms, a super compact single seat Electric vehicle that Hideo Tsurumaki worked on at Toyota. The four seat Concept One is not that much bigger. (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
The drivers side of the right hand drive Concept One showing the full opening door width (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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The drivers side of the right hand drive Concept One showing the full opening door width (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
The rear of the Concept One at present has no opening, but this will change in the next prototype (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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The rear of the Concept One at present has no opening, but this will change in the next prototype (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
The Concept One has large sliding doors (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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The Concept One has large sliding doors (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
Each front wheel is fitted with a in-wheel motor which are of FOMM's own design (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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Each front wheel is fitted with a in-wheel motor which are of FOMM's own design (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
This is the right hand side of the car with blades of the wheel design going (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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This is the right hand side of the car with blades of the wheel design going (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
The wheels are designed to help generate a small amount of thrust to enable movement in water (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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The wheels are designed to help generate a small amount of thrust to enable movement in water (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to drive the vehicle, but during our brief ride the Concept One felt comfortable and zippy (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to drive the vehicle, but during our brief ride the Concept One felt comfortable and zippy (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
Rear passengers have enough room to travel in relative comfort (for such a small car) (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
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Rear passengers have enough room to travel in relative comfort (for such a small car) (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
The Concept One has limited amphibious ability for emergency situations (Image: FOMM)
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The Concept One has limited amphibious ability for emergency situations (Image: FOMM)
View gallery - 17 images

A city car with a semi-amphibious ability sounds like a bit of a misnomer, but for the residents of Bangkok in recent years, it could have been a true lifesaver. Created by a small Japanese company called FOMM (First One Mile Mobility), the Concept One vehicle is designed for Thailand's high flood risk areas. Gizmag has been following Concept One's progress since it was announced earlier this year and we were recently invited to take a closer look.

The inspiration for Concept One and the formation of FOMM came from its CEO, Hideo Tsurumaki. After the tragic Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, the possibility that other coastal towns in Japan would be hit by a Tsunami became a very real possibility. Hideo Tsurumaki's hometown is located in a danger area, so he formulated had a dream the idea of a small car that could float out of flooded areas and "swim" to safety.

Creating the ideal amphibious vehicle is not as easy task, as it involves making numerous compromises on whether your vehicle should be geared towards roving the land or skimming the sea. Hideo's vision was to optimize the vehicle for land use, so much so that in the true sense it is not strictly an amphibious vehicle – i.e. its movement on water is limited, but it does float.

"Its amphibious ability is only there for emergency situations, which could mean the difference between life and death", he told Gizmag, further explaining that maintenance is required after use in floods and any water submersion.

Hideo's dream started to become a reality just after the formation of FOMM in February 2013. Foreseeing problems with entry into the fledgling Micro Mobility Vehicle in Japan, FOMM switched its market attentions from Japan to Thailand.

The driver controls are arranged in a handle bar style, similar to mobility vehicles (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
The driver controls are arranged in a handle bar style, similar to mobility vehicles (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)

This switch of direction did initiate a few changes to the original idea. The biggest change was that the original two seat capacity was increased to four by adding a rear bench. Such an addition was a relatively easy design change to make, as all the driver controls are mounted on a handle bar type steering control. The result is a vehicle that with enough room for four adults despite its compact size, as Gizmag found out during our brief ride around their test area.

Hideo's plan is to market the Concept One to city dwellers that live in flood threatened areas as a potentially life saving vehicle. As there are no foot controls and entry and exit is very good through the sliding side doors, it may also appeal to the elderly market. The commercial market is also a possibility, as the rear seats can be replaced with a cargo platform, it would give local governments an extra edge in times of flooding or in the rainy season.

Concept One is driven both on the land and in the water by its two front wheels, each being fitted with an in-wheel 5 kW electric motor. Based on his experience working for Toyota on the Coms EV project, Hideo says he chose front wheel drive because rear wheel drive vehicles tend to lock up and skid in wet and slippery conditions under full re-gen braking as weight is transferred forward.

Each front wheel is fitted with a in-wheel motor which are of FOMM's own design (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
Each front wheel is fitted with a in-wheel motor which are of FOMM's own design (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)

To get the maneuverability required for an urban vehicle, it was also decided to have in-wheel motors as against a single front motor and drive shafts. The drawback of this mechanical arrangement, Hideo concedes, is that it has made the vehicle a little more expensive and complex that he would have liked.

This is the right hand side of the car with blades of the wheel design going (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)
This is the right hand side of the car with blades of the wheel design going (Photo: Stephen Clemenger/Gizmag.com)

In the water, the Concept One's propulsion comes from both the tire tread and the wheels themselves. When rotating at high speed the front wheels act like impellers to generate some movement. The wheel "blades" are reversed on the other side of the car, so that as the front wheels spin forward, the left wheel and the right wheel are both drawing the water in, so acting like an impeller and moving the car forward. This process is reversed when the wheels are spun backwards. Steering in water is also via the front wheels, which change the direction of the thrust and so the direction of the vehicle.

Water testing of Concept One is still in its early stages and, if costs and efficiency can be kept in-check, a four wheel drive system may also being considered.

The Concept One design is expected to have a range – on land – of around 100 km (62 mi) and a top speed of 50 km/h (31 mph). It weighs 460 kg (1014 lb) and is made of plastic, both injection molded or vacuumed formed, that covers a tubular space frame.

The Concept One has limited amphibious ability for emergency situations (Image: FOMM)
The Concept One has limited amphibious ability for emergency situations (Image: FOMM)

FOMM is currently in the process of constructing its second prototype and there will be a number of changes made to move it closer to a production ready vehicle. These include replacing the front perspex windshield with a glass unit, which will also require the addition of two extra A pillars. At the rear, an opening hatch will be added which will provide an emergency escape when waterborne. As mentioned, four-wheel drive may also be fitted to improve speed in the water and egress from water to land. The company says that if these changes can successfully implemented, production could start in late 2015.

Hideo Tsurumaki sees Concept One as a starting point for FOMM in its mission to produce new mobility solutions – Gizmag will be keeping a keen eye on developments.

Source: FOMM

View gallery - 17 images
5 comments
Bob Flint
Really good door seals, all wheel drive with more aggressive tread pattern, and auxiliary propulsion system for the water emergencies. Could be difficult to maneuver with large objects chunks of houses or other vehicles bashing about assuming the ridged shell/inner tubing helps to protect occupants.
Also how would this perform in mud-slides?
Could see this very useful in flash flood areas, or even with freak downpours we can have in North America.
Also noticed no wipers? Polycarbonate windows?
Gargamoth
Why manufacture partial amphibious ability when you can build wholly amphibious? Also since it's made for emergencies, be sure to have a water proof radio with tuning to all emergency stations and a flare gun.
Mel Tisdale
As Bob Flint points out, and having seen footage of the Fukushima and Phuket Tsunamis, I would think that some form of stability provision will be required when it finds itself among the larger pieces of floating debris. Also, some form of anchor might be useful if there is any danger of it being swept out to sea.
I wonder what the steering handlebar would be like on a normal vehicle.
Slowburn
Take an old model bug tie a 55 gallon drum to the front bumper and put sand tires on back.
Noel K Frothingham
Hard to beat old-tech, SlowBurn! ;)