By Jody McCutcheon
This one’s almost too good to be true–but true it is.
Lichtenstein-based company NanoFlowcell AG has produced a marvel of automotive technology, an electric, emission-free sports car powered entirely by saltwater. The QUANT e-Sportlimousine debuted at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show to perhaps as much fanfare as skepticism. After all, another electric QUANT—by the same designer, Nunzio La Vecchia—died on the auto-show circuit five years earlier. And specs like zero to a hundred km/h in 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 350km/h definitely seem TGTBT. That’s McLaren P1 Hybrid territory.
The technology behind the performance is called a flow cell battery, and the QUANT is the first automobile to harness it. Flow cell batteries can safely and stably store significant amounts of energy, as much as five times that of lithium-ion batteries.
Here’s how the technology works: A liquid electrolyte (i.e., saltwater) fuel is contained in a pair of 200-litre tanks separated by a membrane. As each container’s fluids—one positively charged and one negatively charged—pass through the membrane, they react with each other, thus generating electricity, up to 600V worth of the stuff. The electricity powers four motors, one for each wheel, offering a maximum output of 680kW and about 920hp. To recharge the car, just swap the used electrolytic fluid for newer stuff, which can be charged outside the vehicle. Two full tanks provide the vehicle with a range of up to 600km.
At a generous 5.25m long, 2.2m wide and 1.35m tall, and showing off sporty, 22-inch tires, the four-seater QUANT offers a muscular aesthetic—think Porsche Cayenne, but more streamlined. The car’s exterior colour scheme symbolizes its power dynamics: the “chrystal-lake blue” paint job represents water, while the copper trim symbolizes the flow of electricity.
Extra-wide gull-wing doors allow simultaneous access to front and back seats. The interior whispers luxury with its fine woods, elegant lines and a personally adjustable, ambient lighting system. An Android-based infotainment system served on a 1.25m display screen performs double duty, entertaining passengers and providing the driver with data like battery charge status and driving range. There’s even a QUANTmobile app, which enables the driver to remotely access functions, settings and driving data via smartphone.
The QUANT has been certified street legal for European roads, and NanoFlowcell AG is preparing for series production. No cost has been announced, but estimates run as high as $1.7million.
Flow-cell technology is a sustainable, eco-friendly energy source with potential applications in rail, aviation and maritime industries. But for now, we’re excited to know that it’s being used to power cars.