The tiny car crawled down a ramp before an expectant crowd and slid silently into the makeshift swimming pool. But its floorboard stayed dry and its engine kept running, as the driver calmly steered his bobbing vessel around a corner.
Buyers of a new electric car who test drove the vehicle in Bangkok got up close and personal with this amphibious feature. Called the FOMM One, the watertight batterypowered vehicle is designed to help owners survive floods and transport them to the nearest dry ground. FOMM stands for First One Mile Mobility.
The electric car was first on show at the 2018 Bangkok Motor Show, and FOMM was taking pre-orders for the first 2,000 units for 599,900 THB. The firm has turned a driving track in Bangkok into an obstacle course for test drives. There, experts will push the car near its limit of 80 kmh. Mr Tsurumaki, the chief executive of FOMM (Asia), a Thai-Japanese joint venture that will be producing the first vehicles for sale from its factory in Chonburi province, starting from next February.
FOMM Asia is exempted from paying corporate tax for five years. Amazingly it’s a four-seater despite the 2,585 mm length and 1,295 mm width. There’s just one pedal, for the brakes. There is precious little space but there are plans to offer buyers roof racks, leather seats and even wireless mobile phone chargers. The 630 kg vehicle has a detachable cassette type 12 kWh lithium-ion battery powering two 5 kW (6.7 hp, 280 Nm) in-front wheel motors.
But its most unique property is its waterborne capability, an attractive feature in low-lying Bangkok. FOMM says even when fully loaded with four people, the car starts to float as soon as water levels rise to 70cms. The Concept One is equipped with a “water-jet generator” that allows some maneuverability once the roads disappear. However, the Concept One isn’t a fully amphibious vehicle; it can’t be driven like a boat and is not what you would want to take for leisure cruises down the river. At its fastest, it can move at just 2 kmh in water and requires some maintenance after taking a plunge. But In moderate floods, the car will keep its owner safe and dry as envious sodden pedestrians wade past.