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Chinese automaker says it may bring superhero-style SUV with maritime capabilities to market: 'We are ... testing its appeal'

This SUV can float in the case of an accident in which the vehicle ends up in water or in an event like a flash flood.

This SUV can float in the case of an accident in which the vehicle ends up in water or in an event like a flash flood.

Photo Credit: BYD

At the Geneva International Motor Show in Switzerland in February, Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer BYD unveiled a plug-in hybrid SUV that can do much more than even the most advanced EV on the market. The Yangwang U8 is capable of floating on water.

​​To be clear, this is not a vehicle meant to be used both on land and in the water. It's meant to float in the case of an accident in which the vehicle ends up in water, or an event like a flash flood.

Unfortunately, this type of technology might become necessary, as floods only continue to increase across the planet as a result of global heating. 

In northwestern China last summer, 21 people lost their lives and several more went missing in a flash flood. Less than a month later, Greece was hit with what Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called "one of the most powerful storms to ever hit Europe." At least 15 people died in the flooding that followed.

If a driver ends up in floodwater, the U8 will do a handful of things that allow it to operate in water, like elevate its suspension, turn off its engine, switch its heating and air conditioning system to recalculation mode, and seal its windows. It can reportedly stay afloat for up to 30 minutes despite weighing roughly 7,700 pounds. 

While it's not meant to "drive" in water, the U8 is capable of moving at speeds up to 1.8 miles per hour while floating and can be maneuvered, as demonstrated in a video posted to YouTube by CarNewsChina.

Oh, and the U8 is equipped with electric motors in each wheel, allowing it to park sideways — moving like a crab — or make a complete turn on the spot.

The U8 costs a little over $150,000, but there's no word yet on when it will be available outside of China. It's much more likely to begin selling in Europe before it graces the shores of the U.S.

BYD, which is famous for its more affordable Dolphin, Seal, and Seagull EVs, began selling in Europe just a little over a year ago and has already had a positive impact on the market, at least for consumers. By bringing the more affordable Dolphin and Seal EVs to Europe and potentially one day also the uber-cheap Seagull, which sells for about $10,000 in China, BYD is forcing European EV manufacturers like Renault and Stellantis to produce more affordable models.

Making EVs more widely available can only reduce the amount of carbon pollution released into the atmosphere by gas-powered vehicles.

It remains to be seen whether Europe will get the U8 anytime soon, but it certainly appears that the company is looking into it.

"This vehicle could perhaps be brought to certain European markets with limited distribution, but not necessarily exactly in its current form," BYD's marketing manager for France, Guillaume Calvar, told Reuters. "But for the moment, we are … testing its appeal."

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