A vision becomes a reality: New QUANT e-Sportlimousine
The new QUANT e-Sportlimousine – with its new powertrain and energy storage concept - is a quantum leap in the development of electric mobility. The state-of-the-art design of its carbon monocoque body gives the car a hot-blooded elegance. The first prototype built by nanoFLOWCELL AG is a breath of fresh air, and not just for those in the alternate drive-train scene.
Built around an extremely stable monocoque composed of carbon-fibre structures, the four-seater with gull-wing doors is an innovative and intelligent vehicle concept for electrical mobility. The two-metre long gull-wing doors give access to both front and back seats. The first gull-wing four-seater in automotive history combines, with its innovative drivetrain concept, the most advanced elements in the development of mobility today. Four electric motors, one per wheel, draw their power from a completely new battery system that is guaranteed to draw the attention of scientists and researchers around the world: The nanoFLOWCELL® energy storage system works on the proven principles of the redox flow-cell, but the nanoFLOWCELL® extends the technical characteristics and possibilities of this technology to new heights.
Flow cell systems are in regular use today for terrestrial applications like storing solar energy for domestic residences or storing wind energy for use during the next lull in winds. Until now, flow cells based on redox principles have been too heavy and their energy conversion rates too sluggish for use in mobile applications.
This is where the nanoFLOWCELL® technology opens the door to a broad palette of new technical opportunities. The improvements that have given the system such a major performance boost are the result of research into the quantum chemistry of electrolytic fluids. The most important innovation of the nanoFLOWCELL® is in its significantly higher charge- and power-density thanks to an extremely high concentration of ionic charge carriers in the cell system’s electrolyte.
The approach that made the nanoFLOWCELL® system’s rapid advances possible was based on extensive research activities in the nanoFLOWCELL AG’s DigiLab simulation lab in Zurich, Switzerland. This is where mastermind and director of development, Nunzio La Vecchia, and his team have been investigating key aspects of quantum chemistry through molecular engineering. Years of experimentation went into simulating and digitally testing charge transport mechanisms, then synthesising and real-world testing of the resulting materials.
This work produced charge-carrier liquids significantly more concentrated than those used in conventional redox flow-cell systems. Whilst terrestrial redox flow-cells operate using electrolyte tanks that hold thousands of litres, a few hundred litres is enough to power the QUANT e-Sportlimousine on a long drive.
The production of four more prototypes for research and development is planned for 2014. The small team at nanoFLOWCELL® AG has big challenges ahead of it and is working with major partners to further optimise the technologies presented here. The challenges include bringing the current system to series-production readiness and thereby establishing it as the powertrain of the future.
The QUANT e-Sportlimousine is a first step towards demonstrating the many advantages of the nanoFLOWCELL®, as well as paving the way for the electrical mobility of the future. Its inventor, Nunzio La Vecchia, has a much grander vision. Environmentally friendly and with an energy density and storage efficiency 5-times greater than conventional flow cell batteries, the nanoFLOWCELL® opens new horizons for applications in the aerospace industry, building power, and more.
The laws of physics have long gotten in the way of simple storage of electricity. Electricity cannot be conserved, only converted into another form of energy. This fact is the basis for the development of complex energy storage systems like multi-level hydroelectric power stations and the discussions around constructing and expanding electrical power transmission networks. Systems that are already in use like lead-acid batteries are in need of great improvements in efficiency and their power-to-weight ratio. Modern lithium-ion technologies are a satisfactory interim solution for powering mobile telephones or laptop computers. For larger devices, like automobiles, these batteries’ behaviour becomes difficult to control to the point of “thermal runaway”, that is, the batteries can burst into flame.
From this perspective, flow cell technology and its liquid electrolytes could make one of mankind’s dreams come true: It is the first time it has been possible to efficiently store meaningful quantities of energy. The outstanding feature of the flow cell system’s electrolyte is its stability. It barely degrades at all and remains free from the “memory effect” in both charge capacity and regeneration. Once the electrolyte has been discharged in use, it simply needs to be recharged at an appropriate filling station. 100 litres of used electrolytic fluid can be transformed into 100 litres of ionically concentrated electrolyte, charged and ready to power another vehicle or device.
The idea of a network of electrolyte filling stations is not just a bunch of hot air, either. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, the Fraunhofer Institute study entitled Bewertung des Aufbaus einer Ladeinfrastruktur für eine Redox-Flow-Batteriebasierte Elektromobilität (“Assessment of the construction of charging infrastructure for redox-flow-battery-based electric mobility”) by Simon Arpad Funke und Martin Wietschel is worth reading.
The biggest advantage of the nanoFLOWCELL® over conventional flow cell technologies is its 5-times greater energy density (600 Wh/kg or litre). For the QUANT e-Sportlimousine, this means its range is 5-times greater at the same weight of previous systems. This also opens the door to many interesting new applications. Furthermore, this newly developed system is safe and reliable to operate whilst being environmentally friendly. In addition, the system contains almost no moving parts, produces little waste heat, and therefore has an operating efficiency of more than 80%. There has never been a system like it.
Today’s aeroplanes use a considerable number of batteries on board. The Boeing Dreamliner’s batteries are made of the same lithium-ion material as our mobile phone and laptop batteries. This material, in rare cases, is subject to intense thermal collapses. These events are called “thermal runaways”, the batteries become extremely hot, melt, and even catch fire. Following two such events, the entire Dreamliner fleet was grounded for several months in 2013 while a desperate search for alternatives and solutions went on. The nanoFLOWCELL® could offer significantly improved energy density and operating safety in aerospace applications.
Energy concepts including nanoFLOWCELL® technology could help railroad transport be more efficient and reliable, giving boost power for acceleration and stabilising on board electrical systems. Passengers might only notice that the quality of WiFi networks on public transit suddenly got better. Use of the nanoFLOWCELL® is also conceivable in next generation drive trains, using it for boost energy and braking regeneration.
Flow cells are already in use for domestic energy storage. They form part of several test programmes for storing solar energy overnight until it is needed for heating, for example. Flow cells could also store electricity generated by wind or other sources. Local energy logistic systems for individual residences or small settlements using Redox flow-cells are already being tested in real world conditions. In future, these could allow complete independence from power stations as long as the systems are planned and constructed with sufficient capacity.
The possibilities for new applications and improvements to existing ones seem endless. In the Australian outback, flow-cell technology is already being used to help enable stable energy delivery to communities that previously had to rely on wind power and weak battery stations to power radios and a few light bulbs. Using nanoFLOWCELL® technology, with its 5-times greater energy density, it should be possible to secure energy delivery to such places for periods of days or weeks. The technology could power computers, milking plants, air conditioners, and even local public transit systems. The continued testing and development of the nanoFLOWCELL® is taking these areas into account, just as much as for promoting electrical mobility. It’s all about the old dream: simple, lossless, and environmentally friendly energy storage. The nanoFLOWCELL® could make it all possible.