Pascal Rambaud might be an architect, but that hasn't stopped him from indulging his other passions, like mountaineering and motorsports. Back in the mid-2000s, the latter hobby led him to create an easier way to transport go-karts, which you see here:
That invention, called the DRIV'UP, led to something more complicated that would combine his love of motors with his love of mountains. In 2007 Rambaud began developing a vehicle that was compact, like a go-kart, but which could traverse difficult terrain. Now ready for primetime, he's dubbed it the SWINCAR, and it certainly seems capable of going where other wheeled vehicles cannot:
The electric-powered SWINCAR can run for four hours on a single charge. But perhaps what's most notable about it is its unusual wheels and suspension. When you think of off-roading in a vehicle with that small of a footprint, you probably think of ATVs; those position the rider high up and have their suspension down low, close to the beefy wheels. But the SWINCAR's unique configuration turns this upside down, placing the driver practically at ground level, while moving the mounting points for the suspension far higher, up around where the beltline would be if it was an ordinary car. And the counterintuitively skinny tires seem well-suited to perform the fancy footwork the vehicle is capable of.
Lastly, the SWINCAR boasts a crucial safety feature that your average ATV does not: A rollbar, in case you overestimate the abilities of either the machine or your driving skills.
This is no one-off toy nor vanity project, by the way; Rambaud has partnered with businessman Jerome Arsac and finance/marketing expert Theirry Jammes to form Mécanroc, the company producing and promoting the SWINCAR.
For applications, they foresee uptake by anyone who wants to travel rough terrain without leaving an ecologically-damaging stamp—the electric SWINCAR naturally leaves no emissions and is noiseless—and in addition to those seeking outdoor recreation, the company names both the military and public rescue outfits (think park rangers) as potential target markets.
The company is also seeking distributors, and they reckon the vehicle's unique configuration may help them find some in the existing personal off-road vehicle market. Their "highly differentiated technology [has] no current competitor in the market," they write, and the SWINCAR's unusual design means there's "not [a] conflict with your other product ranges."
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It's rare to see a completely new vehicle idea, but that's what this appears to be. I've never seen this kind of/approach to wheel articulation before. I don't know how commercially viable this is, but I really like it.