We say: the CO2-neutral saltwater-powered car is here. We’ve driven it. Now can someone sell it, please?
The Quantino is a 2+2-seat city car that handles like a lower, heavier BMW i3. I’m telling you this now because this bit of the mag is called “Drives”. And it’s the mind-melting science that actually powers the Quantino that needs properly picking apart, rather than the surprisingly agile way it slews around a corner.
Basically, it’s an electric car, but it’s not a charge-up battery job. The Quantino uses a flow cell to generate power on board. Instead of plugging it into the wall for a couple of hours, you fill its twin 159-litre on-board tanks with “two ionic liquids” via a roadside pump.
One batch of “bi-ion” fluid holds a positive charge, the other a negative charge. The car pumps these liquids through a membrane, where the interaction of the electrons generates an electrical charge. The liquid is vapourised and released harmlessly, we’re told, as “water dust”. This empties the tank so you can refill it. It also massively decreases the car’s weight as you drive – adaptive suspension stops the full 320kg fuel bloat knackering handling.
The Quantino is also the world’s first low-voltage electric car. Every other EV uses high voltage, and heavy, pricey cables. The Quantino’s are no thicker than a human finger.
Low voltage is usually used for low-speed stuff like golf carts and mobility scooters, but because the NanoFlowcell system produces high current at low-rated voltage, the company says it can get away with smaller wires without the heat build-up.
Meanwhile, the charge is stored in a supercapacitor, which is like a giant industrial-strength battery, more resistant to frequent charge-use-charge cycles than a regular battery, and can provide the bursts of power necessary for a car. It’s the size of a shoebox.
Because the fuel is essentially saltwater, it’s abundant and can be produced anywhere on Earth (the exact process is a closely guarded secret). It’s also not volatile as petrol is, so it’s easy to store and transport, makes crash safety easier and bi-ion doesn’t have a shelf-life.
The whine of the drive system gets progressively louder as the speed rises, but it’s still perfectly easy to hold a conversation, and once the system has been refined and shrunk behind a bulkhead, it’ll be leagues quieter in the production version. If you could buy one. Which you can’t.
NanoFlowcell is adamant it is a tech company, not a carmaker. This is merely a demonstrator. Instead, the company is “in talks with a major automaker” to sell its propulsion concept on in 2017, and tapping up an aircraft manufacturer to provide alternative on-board power to lithium-ion batteries. Are you listening, Boeing?
Verdict: A genius principle. Now show us your working and see if the world’s fuel and transport giants are game to invest.