Forget flying cars. I want a submarine car!

The metal container powered by the explosion of million-year-old liquefied algae which transports me over long distances (My car. Yes, I know I’m a smart-ass.) is a 2007 Toyota Yaris hatchback. It’s a decent enough car, I suppose. It looks about like this:


(Many thanks to the nice person on the Wikimedia Commons who put the photo in the public domain, since I lost the only good photo of my car before it got all scruffy.) According to its specifications, its engine can produce 106 horsepower (79 kilowatts), it weighs 2,326 pounds (meaning it masses 1,055 kilograms), and has a drag coefficient of 0.29 and a projected area of 1.96 square meters (I love the Internet). Those are all the numbers I need to calculate my car’s maximum theoretical speed. I’ll be doing this by equating the drag power on the car (from the formula (1/2) * (density air) * (velocity)^3 * (projected area) * (drag coefficient)) with the engine’s power. I will be slightly naughty by neglecting rolling resistance, which for my car, is usually negligible.

1. Maximum speed on Earth, at sea level: 135 MPH (217 km/h or 60.19 m/s). I may or may not have gotten it up to 105 MPH once, so this estimate seems about right. Worryingly, according to the spec sheet for my tires, they’re only rated up to 112 MPH…

2. Maximum speed on Mars: (Assuming I carry my own oxygen, both for me and for the engine.) 538 MPH (866 km/h, 240.50 m/s). I would break the speed record for a wheel-driven land vehicle (Donald Campbell in the BlueBird CN7) by over 100 MPH. And probably die in a rapid and spectacular fashion. But that’d be all right: I always wanted to be buried on Mars.

3. Maximum speed on Venus: (Assuming I avoid dying in burning, screaming, supercritical-carbon-dioxide-and-sulfuric-acid agony.) 36 MPH (58 km/h, 16.23 m/s). Unfortunately, the short-sighted manufacturers didn’t say whether my tires are resistant to quasi-liquid CO2 at 90 atmospheres. The bastards.

4. Maximum speed underwater: This is the one we’re all here for! Water is dense shit and puts up a lot of resistance, as anyone who ever tried running in a swimming pool can attest. Maximum speed: 15 MPH (23 km/h, 6.52 m/s). Wolfram Alpha tells me I’d only be driving half as fast as Usain Bolt can run. I shall withhold judgment until we clock Mr. Bolt’s hundred-meter seafloor sprint.

5. Maximum speed in an ocean of liquid mercury: (Assuming we filled my car with gold bricks to keep it from floating to the surface. Also, why is there an ocean of liquid mercury? That’s horrible.) Maximum speed: 6 MPH (10 km/h, 2.74 m/s). I can bicycle faster than that (although not in a sea of mercury, admittedly). Of course, mercury is so heavy that, even if our sea was only 5 meters deep, the pressure at the seafloor would be high enough to make my tires implode. Which would, of course, be the least of my problems.

6. And finally, just for fun, my maximum speed in neutronium. Neutronium is what you get when a star collapses and the pressures rise so high that all its atoms’ nuclei get shoved together into one gigantic pile of protons and neutrons. It’s just about the densest stuff you can get without forming a black hole, and my car could push me through it at a whole 0.1 microns per second, which is only fifty times slower than the swimming speed of an average bacterium.

I’ve now spent far too long imagining myself being crushed by horrible pressures. I need to go lie down and imagine myself being vaporized, to balance it out.


40 thoughts on “Forget flying cars. I want a submarine car!

  1. The gear ratios won’t let you go faster on Mars… They won’t be able to spin the tires fast enough. And on Venus or underwater you’d have to have a lot more torque to move anywhere. A Ram 2500 might get you somewhere, not for sure though.

    • That’s a good point about the gear ratios. I considered something like that briefly, but I didn’t want to bog down the whole thought experiment explaining it. The torque, however, I didn’t consider, but I think you’re absolutely right. Then again, if I’m already installing oxygen tanks and depleted-uranium ballasts in my car, why not slap in a turboshaft engine and a fifty-speed transmission? 😀

  2. Now that’s the kind of car I want. If you ever put your calculations into practice, let me know and I will be first in line to buy one!
    I used to imagine that I had a flying / floating mattress when I was a kid going to sleep at night. Perhaps one day that too will be possible. Or maybe we will just content ourselves with a mattress in the back of our submarine cars, where we can sleep as we watch the fish swim by.

  3. I super like that imagination. The idea i so fresh that anyone would laugh at first. But, if thought very well, “it’s worth more than a billion dollar” idea.

  4. Reblogged this on WHY? and commented:
    Excellent! I was with you almost all the way. I think I got confused in the Liquid Mercury, but made it back for the end. I hope you don’t mind the reblog!

  5. Pingback: Return of the submarine-car! | Sublime Curiosity

  6. frankdealba says:

    I like the idea but they would have to build a’lots of path under water for this to happen, i think that they should have underwater cars and flying cars, also planes would have to fly even higher.

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