When we read the title of the article, everyone has one question; what is super fuel? But it’s not any “out of the box” substance. Yes it’s a just normal substance that we use for our everyday needs. This substance is salt water.
The Nanoflowcell Quant EV is a research prototype that’s powered by salt water. Actually, 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 920 hp into an all-out frenzy of spinning, smoking rubber.
The inventor of the Quant EV, La Vecchia, began researching alternative energy technologies in 1991, forming NLV solar in Switzerland seven years later. Then he gave his full attention to auto design in 2003, partnering with Koenigsegg for the original Quant in 2009 and releasing an updated version of his own car a year later. After that in 2014 Quant introduced a concept EV and ended up in collaboration with Koenigsegg in 2009.
“Following the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, it was decided to pursue a completely new concept, both optically and technically”. So, in four years they’ve developed every component of the Quant: new power train, complete redesign, and most importantly every aspect of new prototypes are designed with homologation requirements in mind.
The LA Vecchia brothers got ideas for the QUANT car in 2003 via sketches. Then they completed the first design in 2009 with the Swedish manufacturer.
The power house of the new Quant EV sports a Nanoflowcell power storage, a very specific formulation of flow battery. Nowadays, many car manufacturers are researching and implementing flow batteries as well, but the Quant becomes the first actual vehicle powered by salt water using Nanoflowcell, it’s something new that world hasn’t seen yet.
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. The car has three tank systems that store two types of electrolyte, one positively charged and the other negatively charged. An electrical charge is generated from a membrane as the two liquids swirl on either side of it. The system generates enough power to propel the car from 0 to 62 mph in a jaw-dropping 2.8 seconds, and the overall range of the car is 248 to 370 miles.
Understandably, Nanoflowcell isn’t divulging the full recipe for its flow battery or electrolyte. In its introductory video, it describes the solution simply as salt water. La Vecchia confirmed that the full truth is a bit more complex, as the electrolyte contains a mix of metal salts and other ingredients.
As mentioned above a thin membrane is used to separate the high and low charge stored in 200 litre capacity separate tanks in the rear of the QUANT and, being pumped forward though a central cell. This creates electricity, which flows in to two super capacitors, where it is stored, managed, and then released on acceleration to power the four three-phase wheel motors. Nanoflowcell says the flow technology operates with 80 percent internal efficiency.
For the sportiest performance of the QUANT car, designers use super-capacitors due to their ability to release energy quickly. To receive this super energy four motors are combined for a maximum of 920HP.
The major advantage of the car is that when the energy of the electric solution is used up, the liquids only need to be replaced, this is as easy as refuelling a gasoline car. La Vecchia envisions a future where gas stations or the like will offer seamless flow cell refuelling. 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 specification needs to be viewed as food for thought, not reliable, rock-solid numbers. Nanoflowcell lists a 2.8 second 0-62mph time and a potential 265 mph top speed. Those numbers come thanks in part to the gobs of torque being cranked at each wheel. The car weighs 2300kg, and is fitted with 22 inch wheels.
In terms of design, La Vecchia and company did an excellent job in making the 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.
The 5257 M concept offers seating for four with gullwing access or 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 inwards 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 represent the car’s liquid based electrical powertrain.
The interior is arguably even more visually interesting than the body. Rich grained ash wood sweeps through the centre of the seats, wrapping the driver and the passenger in separate tubs. The wood appears decorative, but just underneath are integrated touch controls and LED lighting.
The RGB 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 a clean, stylish look. In place of the tachometer, the Quant has a torque indicator that shows readings for all four motors. The displays also provide real-time information from the energy management system.
The Quant’s infotainment system is built based on the Android platform, and an accompanying smartphone app connects to provide remote information, offers remote control, and acts 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.
While chatting briefly with La Vecchia in Geneva, and getting up to speed on some of his past ventures, it left with the impression that he’s articulate and passionate but very consumed with image and style.
Nanoflowcell purportedly has decades of research behind it, but only three months separate the company’s founding 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” doesn’t add a lot of confidence.
Then again La Vechia’s not hawking preorders on kick-starters, 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 that’s 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.
Here are some words by LA Vecchia about this masterpiece “The whole car is made with all rules of European homologation. The design, the structure and all the other parameters of the cars are based on homologation. The only one thing that we didn’t homologate is the flow battery. We need some more time.”
La Vecchia plans to build several more prototypes for research and testing in the near future. Even if he isn’t able to get these prototypes to work the way he intended, at the very least, the premier of this car should stimulate more conversation about the future of flow cells, both in automobiles and other areas. Nanaoflowcell mentions that its technology has wide reaching potential for applications such as domestic energy, where other flow cells are already in use, and aerospace. Vapourware or not,the Quant EV is an inspiring concept car.