Unveiled at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, the Quant F is an electric car with a difference. It draws its energy from two tanks of differently ionized liquids, relying on the chemical reaction between them to power an electric motor system capable of reaching speeds in excess of 300kmh. These so-called flow cell batteries are so critical to the operation and purpose of the Quant F that they make up the name of its maker: nanoFlowcell AG.
This time last year, nanoFlowcell made one of the headlines of the Geneva Motor Show with its introduction of the Quant E, the first car to feature its unique battery technology and a promise for a bold new future ahead. Today, the Quant E has been rated as roadworthy, but it's being relegated to the status of a research vehicle. The new Quant F is the car that nanoFlowcell wants to put into production, and it's accompanied on the Geneva show floor by a concept for a mass-market Quantino, a more affordable, low-voltage version that most people should be able to afford.
If this is the future, it's a very distant one
The benefits of the flow cell technology appear obvious: the ionic liquids can store energy at greater density than conventional batteries and the car can be refuelled in mere minutes rather than hours. The Quant F has a maximum range of 800km (497 miles) — far ahead of anything Tesla or Audi's new R8 e-tron can achieve — and can be filled back up in just 5 minutes. Provided there's a refuelling station nearby.
The downside is as easily apparent as the upside, however: outside of the Liechtenstein HQ of nanoFlowcell, there's basically nowhere to go to refuel your fancy Quant F. The company claims it's easy to retrofit existing fuel stations and there could even be solutions for your home, but that would require a coordinated, multinational effort to build out infrastructure to make the car viable. I'm not sure whether to describe that as admirable ambition or quixotic bravado.
Beyond its energy storage, the Quant F is impressive for the astonishing speed it's claimed to produce, reaching 100kmh in a mere 2.8 seconds. That's faster acceleration than Ferrari's brand new 488 GTB. The Quant F is also more practical, being able to accommodate up to four people, and friendlier to modern technology with an array of functions controllable via a smartphone app. The LED lighting inside the car, for example, can be adjusted on your phone. Oh, and there's a 1.25m-wide display spanning the entire dash of the car, combining entertainment, car analytics, and the instrument panel into one.
The Quantino concept presented alongside the Quant F extends the maximum range to an even more impressive 1,000km (621 miles). It uses a less potent low-voltage system and smaller 175-liter tanks, but is based on the same technology of powering four asynchronous motors — one on each wheel — and looks just as futuristic as the senior model.
I want to believe in this beautiful dream of environmentally friendly, superbly fast, technologically advanced, and conveniently usable electric cars. I want to, but I can't. Even with all the financial backing and growing public awareness that Tesla's electric cars enjoy, building the recharging facilities for EVs remains an uphill struggle. Flow cell refuelling is supposed to be easier, but the world's going to need a lot of convincing before it starts converting petrol stations into ionic refuelling centers.