Monthly Archives: October 2016

The voltage for the Quant

It’s that time of year again. The Geneva Motor Show is approaching and Nanoflowcell is showing the latest version of the Quant, its ever-developing, flow battery-powered electric sports car concept. Unlike the Quants of Nanoflowcell past, the new 750-hp Quant 48Volt sees its voltage drop precipitously, from 700 V on last year’s Quant FE to the namesake 48 V. Performance doesn’t drop at all, though, at least not on the latest piece of paper Nanoflowcell has issued. In fact, it only gets better: 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in 2.4 seconds, a 186-mph (300-km/h) top speed and a 620-mile (1,000-km) range.

Nanoflowcell first showed its 48 V electrical system on the more modest, everyday-driver Quantino concept, which debuted next to the 1,075-hp Quant F at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show. After running through a couple of years of Quantino testing and development, Nanoflowcell announced last month that it had readied a variably controllable flow cell, allowing it to drop the supercapacitors it had previously relied on to store energy and regulate current flow, saving both weight and money.

“It has previously not been possible to vary the control of flow cells directly, meaning they needed buffer storage, so-called supercapacitors, to be able to manage the flow of current for regulating driving speed,” Nanoflowcell explained in that announcement. “However, supercapacitors are very expensive and comparatively heavy. The breakthrough with the new low-voltage flow cell drive in the Quantino 48Volt is that it will no longer require supercapacitors.”

With the 2017 Quant 48Volt, Nanoflowcell packages that new 48 V technology inside the Quant supercar concept it first hit the scene with back in 2014, creating a car with more unbelievable (quite literally) numbers than ever. The Quant 48Volt has an all-wheel-drive layout of four low-voltage motors, teaming up to create 751 hp. The motors have been redesigned for this latest concept car and rely on a “solid aluminium net structure” in place of the copper windings familiar in electric motor design. Nanoflowcell says this reduces the volume, weight and cost of the motor while also making series production simpler.

As usual, the juice spinning those motors comes from the flow cell, where it’s the result of the electrochemical reaction of two electrolyte solutions separated by a membrane. Nanoflowcell explains how it optimized this process in its 48 V system:

“Over two and a half years of development, the company successfully applied a specialist nano process to increase the size of the flow cell’s membrane surface in a way that multiplied the reaction surface by several orders of magnitude without compromising the compactness of the cells. Another innovation is the first series connection of six flow cells, enabling more bi-ion electrolyte to be discharged in a shorter space of time, thus allowing more energy to be generated. Furthermore, this new cell design has also been configured to enable the Nanoflowcell to process a higher energy density in the bi-ion electrolyte solution (more than 600 Wh).”

The big selling point of the low-voltage electrical system is that it makes the vehicle safer, Nanoflowcell illustrating that point by mentioning that you can go ahead and touch the flow cell’s poles without worrying about frying yourself. The liquids used are neither flammable or explosive, so even less worry weighing on the Quant driver’s mind.

So, yep, Nanoflowcell is really kicking ass when it comes to vapor.. er.. nano tech. Or so it tells it. The company must really like the phrase “we’ll believe it when we see it” because there’s generally nothing else to say after seeing the outlandish claims surrounding its annual concept cars.

To its credit, Nanoflowcell did put Autocar and Top Gear behind the wheel of the Quant FE and Quantino last October, but the test drives were far from the in-depth shakedown those following the story are waiting for. Before that type of thorough review, claims like 2.4 seconds to 62 mph (one of the quickest in the world) and 620 miles of range will be greeted with healthy skepticism, if not rolling eyeballs.

Method can levitate just about anything

Levitation may look like magic, but there are a number of scientific tricks behind it. Magnetic systems are usually behind gimmicky consumer products like floating lightbulbs and speakers, optical levitation turns up in more academic pursuits like quantum computing, and acoustics could help suspend tiny particles to make better drugs. These techniques only work with certain objects, but researchers at the University of Chicago have developed a method to levitate basically anything, using differences in temperature.

“Magnetic levitation only works on magnetic particles, and optical levitation only works on objects that can be polarized by light, but with our first-of-its-kind method, we demonstrate a method to levitate generic objects,” says Cheng Chin, one of the researchers on the team.

Balls of ceramic, plastic and glass, ice particles, seeds and pieces of lint have been used to demonstrate the technique, and the team found that the levitated particles could be held aloft for over an hour rather than a matter of minutes, and wouldn’t wobble around sideways.

The researchers achieved this versatile levitation through the process of thermophoresis, which manipulates particles by placing them between sources of different temperatures. In this case, the objects were placed in a vacuum between two plates – the bottom one, made of copper, was left at room temperature, while the top plate contained liquid nitrogen, cooling a stainless steel container to -300º F (-184º C). The relative heat would flow from the bottom plate toward the top one, lifting the particles along with it.

“The large temperature gradient leads to a force that balances gravity and results in stable levitation,” says Frankie Fung, lead author of the study. “We managed to quantify the thermophoretic force and found reasonable agreement with what is predicted by theory. This will allow us to explore the possibilities of levitating different types of objects.”

Seriously sophisticated supercar

Ferrari is on a roll at the moment, turning out stunning cars with oodles of power, but it still struggles with names. From LaFerrari (which translates to The Ferrari) to GTC4Lusso, which gives buyers no clue it’s the followup to the FF, sometimes it seems like the naming team in Maranello choose their new model badges by pulling letters and numbers from a hat. Unfortunately, things haven’t changed on the 812 Superfast. Sure, it’ll be unbelievably fast, and the chassis is smarter than ever, but Superfast? Really?

Alright, we’re going to put the name aside for a moment and talk about what’s hiding under the skin of the new Superfast, because Ferrari has gone to town on its replacement for the F12Berlinetta. The naturally aspirated 6.5-liter V12 under the hood now produces a scarcely believable 789 hp (588 kW) at 8,500 rpm, up from the 740 hp (552 kW) in the old car thanks (in part) to 350 bar variable direct injection and Formula 1-derived variable geometry intact tracts.

As the world moves toward a turbocharged future, it’s worth noting the 718 Nm of torque on offer in the free-breathing Ferrari. Sure, peak twisting force doesn’t kick in until 7,000 rpm but 80 percent of that peak is available from just 3,500 rpm. Hooked up to a retuned dual-clutch gearbox capable of faster shifts in both directions, drivers should enjoy razor-sharp throttle response and linear thrust from almost any speed.

With so much power being sent to the rear wheels, Ferrari has pulled out all the stops to make sure enthusiastic drivers don’t go flying backwards when they breathe on the throttle. Gone is the old hydraulic steering rack, and in its place is the first electric power steering system to emerge from Maranello. Interestingly, the press materials don’t mention (oft written about, rarely defined) steering feel, instead saying the swap will “fully exploit the potential of the car’s performance.”

The latest iteration of Side Slip Control should allow drivers to creep closer to the edge (and slightly beyond it) without fear of a massive accident, and an evolution of the rear-wheel steering system debuted in the F12tdf has also been fitted. By all accounts, that car was an absolute handful, so it will be interesting to see if Virtual Short Wheelbase 2.0 has been toned down for general consumption.

Delivering staggering performance and nimble handling is one thing, but Ferraris are expected to work as pieces of art as well. Designed in-house, the 812 Superfast certainly fits the brief. Its basic silhouette is largely unchanged from the F12 but the details, from the skinny new headlights to the quad taillights, give it a look more in line with the 488 GTB and J50.

The fresh shape is also much smarter than before, with a more refined take on the active aero flaps at the front of the car and a clever aerodynamic bypass on the rear flanks helping keep the car settled at speed. Given the 340 km/h (211 mph) top speed and 2.9 second 100 km/h (62 mph) sprint, that’s probably a good thing.