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900hp Quant EV powered by flow cell battery

By

March 6, 2014

Car of the future or vaporware?

Car of the future or vaporware?

Image Gallery (30 images)

One of the wildest cars at the Geneva Motor Show, the Nanoflowcell Quant e-Sportlimousine is a research prototype that's powered by salt water. More accurately, it's powered by a flow battery that uses a special formula of ionic charge-carrying salt water as its storage medium. Not content to just electrify an average powertrain, Nanoflowcell uses its technology to send 912 horses into an all-out frenzy of spinning, smoking rubber.

We now have a clearer picture of Nunzio La Vecchia's energy and supercar ventures than we did when we covered the Quant teaser. La Vecchia began researching alternative energy technologies in 1991, forming NLV Solar in Switzerland seven years later. He turned his attention to auto design in 2003, partnering with Koenigsegg on the original Quant in 2009 and releasing an updated version on his own a year later. Nanoflowcell emphasizes that the cooperation with Koenigsegg ended in 2009, and the 2014 Quant represents an entirely new vehicle concept.

"Following the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, it was decided to pursue a completely new concept, both optically and technically," Nanoflowcell explains. "Every element of the Quant e-Sportlimousine has been developed from the ground up over the last four years: new powertrain, complete redesign, and most importantly, every aspect of the new prototypes are designed with homologation requirements in mind."

The beating heart of the new Quant is its Nanoflowcell power storage, a very specific formulation of flow battery. Flow battery power for vehicle use is being researched elsewhere, as well, but the Quant becomes what Nanoflowcell qualifies as the first actual vehicle powered by it.

Nanoflowcell explains that its technology boasts five to six times the storage capacity of other flow cell designs or lithium-ion batteries, making it primed for vehicular use. It credits that superior energy density to "an extremely high concentration of ionic charge carriers in the cell system’s electrolyte" and translates it into a 249- to 373-mile (400- to 600-km) driving range estimate.

Understandably, Nanoflowcell isn't divulging the full recipe for its flow battery or electrolytes. In its introductory video, it describes the solutions simply as salt water. La Vecchia confirmed that the full truth is a bit more complex, as the electrolytes contain a mix of metal salts and other ingredients.

The high- and low-charge solutions are stored in separate 200-liter tanks in the rear of the Quant, being pumped forward through a central cell, separated from each other by a thin membrane. This creates electricity, which flows into two supercapacitors, where it is stored and managed, released on acceleration to power the four three-phase wheel motors. Nanoflowcell says the flow technology operates with 80 percent internal efficiency.

A diagram of the Nanoflowcell powertrain

The Quant design uses supercapacitors for their ability to release energy quickly, allowing for the sportiest performance, a reason that they've shown up in race cars and concepts like the Toyota Yaris Hybrid R. On the receiving end of that energy, the four motors combine for a very supercar-like 912 hp.

Beyond the robust estimated range, the Nanoflowcell system has other major advantages. When the energy in the electrolyte solutions is used up, the liquids need only be replaced, a process that is similar in ease and quickness to refueling a gasoline car. La Vecchia envisions a future where gas stations or the like will offer seamless flow cell refueling. Nanoflowcell also says that the used liquid can be recharged and used again.

Unlike in lithium-ion batteries, the flow battery's storage capacity does not degrade over time from memory effect. Nanoflowcell claims there are no environmentally damaging components to the electrolytes and says the system does not rely on rare or precious metals.

As with any research vehicle, the Quant's specifications need to be viewed as food for thought, not reliable, rock-solid numbers. Nanoflowcell lists a 2.8-second 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time and a potential 236 mph (380 km/h) top speed. Those numbers come thanks in part to the gobs of torque being cranked at each wheel. The car weighs 5,070 lb (2,300 kg).

In terms of design, La Vecchia and company did an excellent job in making a car that stands out at a show full of wild and exotic designs, without making it so overwrought as to distract from the technological story. You could walk right past many alternatively powered vehicles, never realizing what interesting technology hides underneath plain skins, but you're going to want to stick around and learn more about a car like the Quant.

Nanoflowcell claims the big sports car is capable of hitting 62 mph in just 2.8 seconds

The 5,257-mm concept offers seating for four with gullwing access to the front and rear. The big, roof-hinged doors are reminiscent of the wings on last year's Vauxhall Monza concept.

At the front, the Quant has an interesting combination of arched fenders swooping inward and a distinctive grill and inlet design. A clamshell roof drops gently toward the rear, framing the extended four-person cabin. The rear quarter is defined by the curves of the fenders and double-bubble roof as well as the under-shell-style fascia. The "crystal lake blue" and copper paint job represents the car's liquid-based electrical powertrain.

"It was important to us that, despite its size and unusual dimensions, our four-seater Quant e-Sportlimousine would be a sporty automobile," explains La Vecchia. "The front of the car is convincing, with its pronounced shoulders, self-confident look, and clear lines. Anyone who stands in front of the QUANT e-Sportlimousine will know exactly what I mean."

Ash wood veneers separate the two sides of the cabin

The interior is arguably even more visually interesting than the body. The richly grained ash wood sweeps through the center of the seats, wrapping passenger-side and driver-side occupants in separate tubs. The wood appears solely decorative, but just underneath are integrated touch controls and LED lighting.

"The wood surfaces are so thin that a light touch of the finger on the Sensorflow icons triggers the appropriate action," says La Vecchia. "This innovation allows us use a sustainable material like wood to give you a direct connection to the digital control systems."

Lights and controls lurk just below the wood surfaces

The RGB LED light strips represent the car's linear flow of electricity, providing a visual reminder of the ions popping free below. A floating "widescreen" dashboard and leather trim finish off the clean, stylish look. In place of the tachometer, the Quant has a torque indicator that shows readings for all four motors. The display also provides real-time information from the energy management system.

The Quant's infotainment system is built atop an Android platform, and an accompanying smartphone app connects to provide remote information, offer remote control, and act as a sort of access key when docked, allowing the car to start. During the drive, the smartphone becomes a touchscreen control for the infotainment system.

After chatting briefly with La Vecchia in Geneva, and getting up to speed on some of his past ventures, we're left with the impression that he's articulate and passionate but overly consumed with image and style.

Nanoflowcell purportedly has decades of research behind it, but only three months separate the company's founding from this week's proclamation about something of a holy grail of energy storage. We watched La Vecchia walk out with a meticulously styled pompadour and pristine, black-on-black three-piece and make big promises for a couple years down the road, a couple of years after walking the same Geneva ground with the original Quant. La Vecchia's music career and research experience described as "years of intense, private study covering a broad spectrum of academic knowledge" don't add a lot of confidence.

Nunzio La Vecchia and the Quant e-Sportlimousine

Then again, La Vecchia's not hawking preorders on Kickstarter, and he readily admits that this is a research vehicle that may or may not pave the way for a production car. He's convinced Bosch Engineering that the Quant is a project worth teaming up on, and the current focus is entirely on further developing and testing the flow cell powertrain and pursuing road homologation for the system.

"The whole car is built with all the rules of [European] homologation," La Vecchia told us. "The design, the structure of the car, the monocoque of the car – everything is based on homologation. The only one thing that we didn't homologate is the flow battery. We need some more time."

La Vecchia believes that the homologation process could be complete by 2015 or 2016, which gives him a couple of years to prove that the Quant is more than just a fancy concept car powered by vapor tech. He plans to build several more prototypes for research and testing by the end of this year.

At the very least, the premiere of this car should stimulate more conversation about the future of flow cells, both in automobiles and other areas. Nanoflowcell mentions that its technology has wide-reaching potential for applications such as domestic energy, where other flow cells are already in use, and aerospace. The Quant e-Sportlimousine is also a pretty cool concept car, vaporware or not. We'll be keeping an eye on Nanoflowcell, but we're not going to strain our vision.

The video below highlights La Vecchia's flash-over-substance approach, but it is a quick, fun watch.

Source: Nanoflowcell

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work.   All articles by C.C. Weiss
13 Comments

sounds about as non-vaporware as that thorium car a few years back.

to put it another way, it's just a test mule with a 4cyl turbo until they actually set some lap times with this flow-cell powertrain in the actual car

Joseph Kitchin
6th March, 2014 @ 12:51 pm PST

Need more detail: Battery weight, cost/kWh, form factor, charging time, durability. I noticed that it needs two 200 liter tanks, i.e. 105 gallons, which itself would add roughly 400 pounds of weight.

If that's all the weight, it's great, but the volume of the water would be a big issue. And then there's the freezing point of sea water, 28 F. You'd need a full time tank heater for cold weather, no? What happens when you park it on a Chicago street during a "polar vortex?"

Charlie Pluckhahn
6th March, 2014 @ 01:07 pm PST

can you tell us what type of flow battery ie zinc or sodium and the power density please

Gavin Roe
6th March, 2014 @ 01:41 pm PST

Sounds great!

Flowcell batteries show a huge amount of potential when compared to ordinary Li-ion batteries (or other batteries). Better range, (likely) lower cost and use of cheaper materials seem to clinch things for them.

mooseman
6th March, 2014 @ 10:27 pm PST

Don't know about the flowcell, but the video is pretty impressive!

bogdan
7th March, 2014 @ 03:39 am PST

Sea water, gull wings, whale mouth grill... the car gets an A+ in design language consistency.

But that haircut?! What's the Elvis look got to do with the future?

duh3000
7th March, 2014 @ 05:31 am PST

400 litres of salt water actually will equate to a little over 400kg weight in the electrolyte, which would seem to add a fair burden to be carrying around permanently compared, say, to a full tank of say 80 litres of gasoline at around 58kg. (And typically the fuel tank is half full on average.)

But, hey, with that weight sloshing around at the rear, enthusiastic cornering could produce some great drifting...or some scary wobbles!

I suspect this might make for an entertaining sports car but an unlikely candidate for mainstream motoring.

Alien
7th March, 2014 @ 07:38 am PST

where will all the salt water go? How will it be removed? They can recycle it. It seems like a great idea!

Neil Farbstein
7th March, 2014 @ 08:27 am PST

Sounds good - but they always do, don't they? "Salt water" is very misleading - the high and low tanks may consist of very concentrated solutions of a metal salt in a high and low oxidation states. When they meet in the battery mutual oxidation/reduction takes place, with electrons being transferred via the external circuit. I would image that the specific weights of the 2 solutions is quite a lot higher than 1.0 so those 2 X 200 liter tanks could easily contain 600 kg of "fuel." I would love to know what redox combination they are using. It may not even be a metal salt - work has been done on organic compounds: the quinone/hydroquinone couple, for example - much cheaper than vanadium salts.

GeoffG
7th March, 2014 @ 09:18 am PST

You can get a lot more information about flow cell batteries here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_battery

DiverMan
7th March, 2014 @ 09:22 am PST

Hmmm. almost 900 lbs of fuel flowing from one set of tanks to another set of tanks when it exits the fuel cell. Thats not gonna be a well-balanced, consistently handling car. It will need a total of around 200 gallons of tanks stuffed in the car. The typical Mid-sized Sedan these days has about a 20 gallon tank. Imagine the average sedan with 10 times the fuel tank capacity. Where would you fit any humans in the car?

Kenny Creed
7th March, 2014 @ 10:18 am PST

Great looking car, but I'll stick with a Porsche 918 and go for the mermaids!

Scarboroughjim148
8th March, 2014 @ 06:54 am PST

So if I read this right it's back to a petrol model where you have to get the fluids from a service station. They talk about ease of filling, but actually service stations are not easy. We don't do this with our cell phones or our laptops. Imagine you had to!

The vast majority of our cars are static for most of their lives, surely this is the perfect time to recharge and not having to make inconvenient trips to gas stations that rip us all off.

Solar/wind power and electric (battery) vehicles offer us a future of almost free energy and almost free transportation. Combined with smart grids they also help balance loads and provide a store for the renewable energy.

Let's support technologies that will stop us and out environment being exploited.

Andy Le May
10th March, 2014 @ 05:05 am PDT
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