Swiss R&D company nanoFlowcell Holdings (earlier post) is in discussions with Formula E Holdings on nanoFlowcell’s participation in the FIA Formula E Championship and intent to enter with a Formula E race car with nanoFlowcell 48VOLT flow-cell drive.
The nanoFlowcell is a compact flow battery operated with two ionic liquid electrolytes (bi-ION). At the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, nanoFlowcell introduced the QUANT 48V electric sports car with a new version of the company’s 48-volt low-voltage drive. nanoFlowcell said that a throttled and adapted drive system based on the type installed in the QUANT 48VOLT could be used to fulfill the Formula E criteria for the maximum battery and motor output.
For the 2018/19 season, the FIA wants to allow battery output of 54 kWh and to raise motor output to 250 kW. As it stands, the nanoFlowcell all-wheel electric drive in the QUANT 48VOLT has a maximum output of 760 hp (560 kW); each of the four low-voltage electric motors delivers 140 kW.
Energy in the QUANT 48VOLT is provided by a flow cell with six membranes and a tank volume of 2 x 250 liters of bi-ION which can deliver a sustained supply of 300 kWh. This enables the QUANT 48VOLT to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in less than 2.4 seconds, reach a top speed of more than 300 km/h (186 mph) and cover a range of more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) without refueling.
By being able to deactivate one of the two flow cell blocks, the drive is highly efficient and able to adapt its power output to the respective situation. Torque distribution ensures the maximum 8,000 N·m is intelligently disseminated and provides optimum traction in all road conditions.
Unlike earlier versions of QUANT drives, the QUANT 48VOLT system no longer uses supercapacitors as buffer storage; the energy necessary for acceleration and top speeds is now delivered directly from the flow cell. To achieve a high power output, the new design features for the first time six equally sized flow cells able to run simultaneously. The pack has a capacity of 300 kWh and around 9,000 A (1,500 A per flow cell) for scenarios such as extreme acceleration or driving at top speed.
The flow cell in the nanoFlowcell 48VOLT drive is the first to operate with an all-new cell membrane design. After two-and-a-half years of development work, engineers succeeded in developing a nano-technology procedure for processing the membrane surface to achieve many times the surface area within almost the same dimensions. This enables more bi-ION electrolyte to be discharged in a shorter period of time, thus providing more energy for the drive.
In future, this new membrane design will enable the nanoFlowcell to process electrolyte solutions with higher energy density, the company said. The average energy density of the bi-ION electrolyte solution currently stands at 600 Wh/l. nanoFlowcell’s development engineers believe the upper limit of energy density has yet to be attained.
One new feature in the nanoFlowcell 48VOLT drive is the innovative 45-phase low- voltage motors that deliver high power paired with a minimal cross-section for the electric wiring. A solid aluminium mesh structure replaces the complicated copper windings found in conventional electric motors. This reduces the physical volume of the motor relative to its power, leading to a reduction in weight and cost and a simplification of any potential series production.
The electric motor’s low induced voltage means that cost-effective MOSFETs (Metal-Oxide Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistor) can be used in the QUANT 48VOLT instead of the expensive HV IGBTs (High-Voltage Isolated Gate Bipolar Transistors) in the earlier QUANT FE. The absence of inverters, HV control units and other HV electronics delivers substantial reductions in weight and cost for the QUANT 48VOLT relative to the QUANT FE.
The magnetic field in the low-voltage motors can be shaped to suit, with electronic fading between different pole-pair numbers effectively constituting the integration of an electromagnetic transmission within the motor. The maximum efficiency of the low-voltage motors can thus be extended across the entire rev/torque map and the correct “gear” selected depending on driving conditions. This makes the nanoFlowcell 48VOLT drive extremely efficient, especially in driving cycles relevant to everyday use. Compared to electric drives with asynchronous motors, losses with the nanoFlowcell 48VOLT low-voltage drive were reduced by around 50 percent on the same driving cycle, the company said.
Last week, the company announced that its QUANTiNO 48VOLT prototype had logged 100,000 road km after two years of city and highway use.
We have almost perfected the nanoFlowcell 48 VOLT electric drive and are confident that our flow-cell system is superior to the lithium-ion battery technology currently used in electric vehicles, and is capable of leading the premium motorsport class for electric sports cars. Racing success in Formula E—just like our success in flow cell research—is hard fought, but we’re showing that we’re not shying away from the competition.
Our participation in the FIA Formula E Championship will help us promote the merits of flow-cell energy technology on an international stage and raise awareness within the industry that the prospects of success with nanoFlowcell energy are reliable and future-safe—and not just in racing. In terms of forward-looking, socially responsible and environmentally compatible electric mobility, we hope that the FIA permits a flow-cell-driven electric vehicle to participate in the FIA Formula E Championship, complete with its many competitive advantages. May the better technology win!—Nunzio La Vecchia, developer of the nanoFlowcell and CEO of nanoFlowcell Holdings
Taking into consideration the preparations required in order to participate in the FIA Formula E Championship and assuming acceptance on the part of the FIA, it will be at least the racing season after next before a QUANT flow-cell electric sports car is able to compete in its first official FIA race.
nanoFlowcell estimates that the cost of manufacturing the bi-ION electrolyte liquid on an industrial scale is substantially less than ten cents per liter. The distribution and sale of the electrolyte liquid is straightforward as its product characteristics mean it is not bound by environmental constraints and could be handled via existing refueling infrastructures.
Under the QUANT brand, nanoFlowcell Holdings Ltd develops prototype vehicles with low-voltage electric drive for the purpose of testing the new flow-cell based nanoFlowcell technology. In 2016, the company demonstrated the potential of an electric vehicle powered by nanoFlowcell mainly with its QUANTiNO 48VOLT technology showcase (earlier post), a road-legal mid-size sports car with nanoFlowcell low-voltage drive able to run fully electrically for upwards of 1,000 kilometers—with a top speed of 200 km/h and an acceleration from zero to 100 km/h of less than five seconds.