Fast forward 50, 60 or 70 years, and changes in the way we fuel our cars will have undoubtedly come to the fore. Will petrol and diesel still largely feature, or will electricity have become the dominant force? And then, of course, there are the other sources clamouring for attention, including hydrogen and…salt water. Sort of.
Step forward the nanoFLOWCELL AG Quant e-Sportlimousine which made its début at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2014. nanoFLOWCELL AG hasn’t given away too much about the specifics of how their car works. The e-Sportlimousine is powered by nano flow cell technology, which the company claims has five times as much energy efficiency and storage capabilities when compared to conventional flow cell batteries. The technology was initially developed for NASA during the 1970s, and works similar to hydrogen fuel cells. Carried in two 200 litre tanks, negative and positively charged electrolytic solutions flow through a flow cell in the centre. This central cell is split down the centre by a membrane and allows an electrical charge to pass through and produce power for the drivetrain. The addition of super capacitors means that the produced energy can be stored and distributed as its needed. Critics have argued that the energy density of such flow cell batteries has always been lower than that of their lithium ion counterparts, so it’ll be interesting if Quant’s claims are proven to be accurate.
Based on supplied figures, the e-Sport won’t be slow – four electric motors will drive each wheel separately, making for a grand total of 925hp (operating power is actually slightly lower, clocking in at 653hp, which is a little
disappointing). Of course, as with the somewhat similar BMW’s i8, and the rest of electric car-kind, torque is available instantaneously, and each of those four electric motors are generating 1,844 lbs ft torque (7,376 for those of you without a calculator to hand). 0-100km should take a mere 2.8 seconds, which is shorter than the time it will take you to register than your journey is already over.
The company also claims their car will travel up to 373 miles (600km) on a single tank, and filling up should be easier than charging a conventional battery-powered electric car. The e-Sport itself is five metres long and actually has back seats, so it’s more practical than one might expect, and it doesn’t look half bad either, complete with customary gull wing doors. While there’s a history of seemingly magical concept cars making wild promises before disappearing into dreamland, on the face of it a working e-Sport model looks more like a reality. Following an in-depth inspection, the Munich arm of international certification organisation, TUV Sud, granted an official licence to test the e-Sport on German and EU roads.
A Tarnished Reputation?
There have been a few alleged irregularities floating around regarding a past project in which founder and self-proclaimed inventor Nunzio La Vecchia was involved: a solar-powered car which turned out not to be quite as efficient as promised. A 2009 article from Swiss daily newspaper Tages-Anzeiger mentioned a court case taken by an investor against La Vecchia – the case was dismissed as the judges determined that sufficient due diligence was not carried out. A similar article in Der Spiegel from around the same time also mentioned irregularities with the supposed technology developed by La Vecchia, quoting a solar researcher and a surface scientist who were of the opinion that the project was untrustworthy. If the above is true, that doesn’t mean the current incarnation of La Vecchia’s vision is anything but realistic, though it does offer some food for thought. What is certain, however, is the colourful nature of La Vecchia’s life. Little information is available on the charismatic self-taught man behind the e-Sport’s conception, whose interests include piloting, racing sports cars and singing – he even has his own YouTube channel.
Time will tell if the e-Sport is as efficient as is claimed, if the technology has actually been developed significantly, and if the car will make it to the production phase. One might be forgiven for thinking that if such great strides have been made in flow cell technology, perhaps a better route to go would be selling the batteries themselves, rather than going to the trouble of building a car around this technology, although it does serve a purpose as an attention-grabber. One positive mark is the partnership with Bosch Engineering, announced earlier this year, who will assist in the development of custom systems for the e-Sport. One major drawback will certainly be the price, likely to be in the high six figures. Will the technology work in the real world? Will people actually be interesting in forking out money for the e-Sport? Who knows. But it could certainly mark an interesting step in sustainable motoring.