Last year, a car called the Quant e-Sportlimousine caused a sensation at the Geneva Motor Show with its futuristic looks and fantastic performance claims. Built by a small company out of Vaduz, Lichtenstein called NanoFlowcell AG, the electric car used an advanced flow-cell battery that runs on an electrolyte solution similar to seawater, producing 912 peak horsepower, and taking the Mercedes S-Class-sized car from zero to 60 in 3.8 seconds on its way to a top speed of 236 miles per hour. If these claims could be independently verified, they could signal the future of battery development and and give rise to incredibly powerful electric supercars. But in the months following the Quant’s unveiling, the company has come under serious scrutiny for its lack of verifiable details on its yet-unproven flow-cell technology and vague plans on how it hopes to realistically attain increasingly fantastic performance goals.
Still, this skepticism isn’t keeping the company from declaring that “This year’s Geneva Motor Show is going to be QUANTastic!” as the company unveiled two new models: an evolution of the e-Sportlimousine called the Quant F and a small car called the Quantino, which was designed to bring the company’s flow-cell technology to the forefront of battery development and introduce Quant cars to a mass market.
NanoFlowcell says the Quantino utilizes a low-voltage drive system unlike anything else on the road today. The company explains that it has taken the basic technology used to power golf carts and electric scooters and modified it to deliver high electrical currents at a low voltage rating. With no promotional photos of its interior and blacked out windows on the concept car, the Quantino seems unfinished compared to the well-appointed e-Sportlimousine and Quant F. Still, the company is insistent that the car is near production ready, and NanoFlowcell Technical Director Nunzio La Vecchia says “we will be driving the Quantino in 2015.” The Quantino is truly tiny – at less than 13 feet long, it’s shorter than a 1970s Volkswagen Beetle. NanoFlowcell hasn’t released much technical information on the car yet, but it claims the car will carry over 92 gallons of its electrolyte solution, giving it an incredible range of over 620 miles – 350 more than a Tesla Model P85D.
While the Quantino represents the company’s mass-market hopes, the Quant F is firmly in the supercar stratosphere. The gull-winged two-plus-two coupe is a revised version of last year’s e-Sportlimousine, and takes that car’s incredible performance numbers to the next level. A unique two-speed transmission has been developed to handle the 1075 horsepower from the powertrain, and an active rear air brake similar to the system on a Bugatti Veyron has been added to increase stability at speed.
The F is certified road-legal in Europe, and the near-production looking car has a gorgeous interior to match the avant-garde flowing lines of the exterior. NanoFlowcell says the carbon fiber-bodied car has been redesigned for increased interior room and weight savings, and has a range of nearly 500 miles. Still, the car is incredibly heavy. Like the e-Sportlimousine, the F is nearly 18 feet long, and carries over over 132 gallons of electrolyte fluid to power the battery.
So far, every concept that NanoFlowcell has introduced has offered a fantastic and exciting glimpse into the future of electric cars. The problem? Aside from a few company-produced videos, there’s been no evidence that any of their cars can drive under their own power, let alone deliver on their incredible performance numbers. Flow-cell batteries are very promising for the future of battery development and electric cars – a current of electrolyte solution carries an electrical current to generate power, and flow-cell powered car would produce zero emissions and run on a non-toxic fuel. A reliable, affordable mass-produced car using this technology could prove to be disruptive enough to render the internal combustion engine obsolete. Still, according to the current state of research (unless NanoFlowcell is quietly holding onto some major breakthroughs), these batteries are years away from reaching their full potential.
Throughout the 85-year history of the Geneva Motor Show, there have been dozens of gorgeous concepts that promised incredible things but never ended up seeing the light of day. The Quant F and Quantino are two of the most exciting concepts at this year’s show, and if they can deliver on their performance figures, then they have the potential to become some of the most important models in automotive history. Until then, the forward-thinking startup seems to losing credibility by the day. If NanoFlowcell can deliver some production-ready prototypes to the media this year, it just might silence the naysayers once and for all. If not, it may just go down in history as another batch of pretty concepts. For the sake of a more interesting automotive future, let’s hope NanoFlowcell can make good on its promises.
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