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Attack of the Amphitruck!

Feb. 8, 2012

It’s a truck! No, it’s a boat! No, it’s the AMPHITRUCK! Agggghhhhh!

Actually, in all seriousness, this is a pretty neat – and unusual – piece of equipment. Built around the proprietary High Speed Amphibian (HSA) technology developed by the Gibbs Amphibians company, the Phibian (pictured at right) joins the firm’s Humdinga as some of the only truly “multi-modal” trucks that can operate easily on either roadways and waterways with but the flick of a switch.

[If you want to view more photos of the Phibian, click here.]

Obviously, both the Phibian and Humdinga (now THERE is a truck model name you won’t soon forget!) were developed primarily for military and search-and-rescue operations, but the company believes there are plenty of commercial applications for these vehicles as well – especially for delivering cargo to hard-to-reach rural areas.

The critical piece for both of these amphibious trucks is Gibbs’ HSA technology, which uses a water-jet propulsion system to enable safe operation in shallow water while also providing the high levels of thrust necessary to achieve “planning” speeds – the velocity necessary for the vehicle to skim along the top of rivers and lakes – within seconds.

[Here’s a video clip of the older Humdinga model in action, giving you an idea of how such “amphitrucks” operate on both land and sea.]

The company added that its patented retracting suspension system improves ride-and-handling on the road, but in the water retracts wheels in seconds to reduce hull drag in marine use.

Introduced and demonstrated at the American Society of Naval Engineers (ASNE) annual conference this week, the Gibbs Phibian is an entirely new type of amphibious truck model – constructed primarily of carbon fiber to make it light, fast, yet tough as well.

The company added that its Phibian model is capable of traveling at highway speeds on land and in excess of 30 mph on water; making the land-to-water (and vice versa) transition in less than 10 seconds with the simple push of a button.

Other features of the Phibian include:

• Fully enclosed, stand-up cabin with integrated radar arch

• Rear radar arch

• Canvas T-top over cockpit and extended canvas over cargo area

• Two or three crew seats with integrated restraints

• Passenger seating for 12 in the cargo area

• Right- and left-hand side doors with full NATO pallet size access

• Tailgate and winch

• Anchor with electric

• Heater and air conditioner

• Chemical toilet with stowable privacy enclosure (now THAT is something a long-haul truck driver can appreciate!)

Originally founded by New Zealand entrepreneur Alan Gibbs in 1996, Gibbs Amphibians has been working on its HSA technology package since 1997 – investing more than $200 million and more than two million hours of engineering over the last decade to make it feasible in the real world.

[Gibbs also developed a high-speed amphibious car called the Aquada using its HSA system – capable of speeds of more than 100 mph on land and in excess of 30 mph on water, which you can see in operation below. Trivia note: In 2004, Virgin Group owner Richard Branson used an Aquada to set a new record of 1 hour 40 minutes for crossing the English Channel in an amphibian – smashing the previous 30-year-old record by more than 4 hours.]

The company also noted its HSA technology can be applied to amphibious vehicles of all sizes, from 800 pounds to 10 tons, meaning perhaps bigger “amphitrucks” carrying larger freight loads could be one day be developed.

Who knows? Maybe one day soon an amphitruck might start hauling freight to a place near you!

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