|Photos by Christian Halili of Top Gear Philippines|
Although flooding cannot be solved in the short and even medium term, H2O Technologies, Inc., a privately owned and run Filipino company, may have a solution on their hands with the Salamander. A product of five years of work, the Salamander is the country’s first amphibious tricycle. It’s available with two powerplants: a gasoline-powered version with a 250-cc motor and a pure-electric version with a 5-kilowatt engine. Both versions can go into institutional service as early as this year with private sale starting as early as 2016.
Chief Engineer Lamberto Armada explained that the decision to make the Salamander available in two versions is deliberate because of the limitation of electric vehicle technology. With no expansive charging station network, the Salamander must be usable in any situation, especially in far-flung areas with no access to electricity. Still, the company is ready to shift to more sustainable and eco-friendly vehicles in the near future.
“The Salamander fits well into the Philippine landscape requirements,” said David Ong, Chairman of the Board for H2O Technologies. “When you look at what the country needs in order to begin resuscitating and rebuilding the drainage and infrastructure, it will take a lot of money and a considerable amount of time. We know it will happen eventually but in the meantime, the country needs a way to continue operating. That’s why the Salamander provides the perfect alternative which will work today but also work tomorrow when the infrastructure issues have been resolved. Therefore, in a barangay, which may simply be waiting for floodwaters to subside, the Salamander would be perfect to allow workers to get back to their normal modes of transportation and make their way back to work.”
Despite its compact footprint, the Salamander carries a total of five passengers plus a driver/operator on land and three passengers plus driver/operator on water. It uses a patented solution that allows it to switch between land and sea travel seamlessly on the same engine with just the pull of a lever. On land, it can reach speeds up to 80 km/h while on sea it can do up to 6 knots. The double-hull design allows it to take on a certain amount of damage while still maintain buoyancy and stability on water.
Renowned custom car designer and H2O co-founder Atoy Llave explained the unique tricycle design of the Salamander: “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to contribute to the design of this great landmark in Filipino innovation. So our team used the tricycle, commonly used throughout the Philippines as inspiration, while delivering some great style without compromising on structural requirements.”
Indeed, the Salamander rides on a modular steel frame with a shell made predominately of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or ABS plastic. It also boasts of LED projector headlights and taillights, a digital speedometer gauge, and even solar USB charging ports.
The launch of the Salamander marks an exciting time for H2O Technologies which has been working on several projects in the past five years. Founder and Managing Director Dominic Chung boasts that the Salamander is the first among many new and exciting projects which will be unveiled this year all of which are centralized around water.
Chung is frank about the challenges faced by the all-Filipino company: “H2O Technologies has tried to stay under the radar for as long as possible so as to avoid the distraction of investor requirements. But while we have multiple interested parties wanting to invest, we have delayed our decision because we want a partner and not just an investor. We are clear on our core competency of controlled innovation and so we also know that manufacturing en masse is not something we are equipped for”.
Well, it seems that H2O Technologies is ready for primetime with the launch of the Salamander. With floods becoming a mainstay, it’s amazing to see what the Filipino inventive spirit can do. It’s certainly alive and well, trying to make sense and find practical solutions to problems. And products such as the H2O Salamander are certainly leading the charge.