Viewpoint 270 days ago

nanoFlowcell at the 2017 Geneva International Motor Show

A tale of automotive stars, starlets and shooting stars.

The Geneva Motor Show has been kicking off the annual motor show calendar since 1905. This year, for around two weeks in March, roughly 700 brands are coming together on a space of 102,000 square metres to present their wares to more than 700,000 visitors.

There can be no doubt that the Geneva Motor Show has established itself as one of the world's most important automotive trade fairs. The last one hundred years have seen many automotive trends born here, plenty of oddities presented and a wealth of automotive technological excellence offered. More than virtually any other, the motor show at the foot of Mont Salève is also a magnet for concept studies, exotic vehicles, super sports cars and low-volume models.

Around 700,000 visitors come to the show to learn more about upcoming trends in the auto industry.

The Geneva Motor Show is also witnessing an increasing presence of alternative drives. Virtually all manufacturers are showcasing their latest electric, fuel cell and hybrid cars in Geneva. However, this should not lead to the impression that these are the only stars in the automotive firmament. The attention-grabbers are still the high-performance powerhouses, against which the everyday runabouts fade almost into insignificance. Nevertheless, these remain the volume models and breadwinners. Still, automakers do not make their money with show cars or alternative drives, but with petrol and diesel engines.

Lexus LC 500h (left) with hybrid-drive and Toyota Mirai with fuel cell drive (right)

The pioneer of electrification is well aware of its customers' concerns with electric mobility and, for its top-of-the-range model, the Lexus LC 500h, continues to place its faith in the power of two hearts - a 3.5-litre V6 naturally aspirated 299 hp petrol engine paired with a 179 hp electric motor. Many will see this as a lazy compromise that promises an abundance of power and performance but does nothing for the environment. Nonetheless, the LC looks good and has rightly earned itself the title "Production Car Design of the Year". Environmental critics were presented with the Mirai, a mid-range hydrogen-powered car from the same manufacturer, with a price sticker of more than 65,000 euros. The Mirai will no doubt adopt the same niche status as the hydrogen models produced by the Korean competition, which has learned from its last 20 years of fuel cell research and is now trying its luck with Ioniq, a platform designed for multiple powertrains. Hyundai doesn't want to decide for a single drive type since none of the current technologies offers a save future. 

Hyundai Ioniq (left) and Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid (right)

Very few manufacturers are truly shining at the show when it comes to environmental issues. Plenty of tokenistic electric drives are in evidence, such as the 100 kW electric auxiliary drive in the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid. While this may not do much for the environment, it at least mitigates the CO2 footprint of this monumental 680 hp sports saloon. According to the NEDC (New European Driving Cycle), the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid undercuts the emissions of the whispering Toyota Prius by up to 10 grams of CO2 per kilometre. It's a brave new world.

Mercedes-Maybach G650 (left), AMG GT CONCEPT (right)

The spread of the electric sham across the market is likewise evident in Stuttgart, with the presentation of the AMG GT CONCEPT, which, despite the electric epithet "EQ Power+", still depends on the force of a 4.0-litre V8. A bit of electricity seems to be welcome in the boardroom, but more electricity would be too much of a good thing. In any event, at an anticipated price of around two million euros, the AMG GT CONCEPT is merely an also-ran - closely followed by the Mercedes-Maybach G650, the luxurious revitalisation of an off-road classic. Where are the fresh ideas to provide stimulus - and not just to sales or automotive libido, but also to the environment? One ray of hope is offered by the "Concept EQ" study, which is supposed to reach production by the end of this decade. However, this advanced EV concept is still equipped with yesterday's environmentally unfriendly battery technology.

Mercedes Concept EQ (left), Black Cuillin by Eadon Green (right)

By way of contrast, the Black Cuillin from Eadon Green, which seems to have emerged from the "Hot Wheels" genre, is blatantly honest in its demeanour. It in no way seeks to hide that its 6-litre V12 is just as retro as its design. A Brit would most likely say "interesting".

Lamborghini Huracan Performante

If we're talking about pure power, VW Group brand Lamboghini is surely one of the front runners. With a 6:52,01 min lap time, the Lamborghini Huracan Performante 5,2-Liter-V10 set a new record at the Nurburgring. While some VW drivers mourn their diesel hp falling victim to the software update, hyper cars and racers provide a degree of distraction from the homemade emissions scandal, which, according to Group figures, will cost it 18 billion euros. These are narrow-minded people who only think small - bean counters who calculate that for this sum, nanoFlowcell® drives could have been fitted to all affected VWs.

It is the niche makers that stand out: Dragonfly by Catecar and Microlino by Micro Mobility Systems.

Not narrow-minded in the least, but extremely cute and cuddly, is the Swiss Microlino - a diminutive electric car reminiscent of the 1950s Isetta with a kerb weight of 450 kg and a range of 120 kilometres. Micro Mobility Systems as well as Catercar with its Dragonfly are only two of the many niche manufacturers presenting their alternative drive systems at this year's show.

Electro-racer Ren by Techrules

More exotic by far is the Ren super sports car from Chinese company Techrules. Technically, it is an electric vehicle with no fewer than six electric motors (!) and - here comes the eccentric bit - a gas turbine as a range extender. Once the 960 kW motors have gobbled up the charge from the 25 kWh lithium-polymer battery, the petrol or diesel-powered turbine drives a generator that supplies fresh charge to the battery. Aside from the gas turbine, the "range extender" concept is similar to that of the Opel Ampera or BMW i8, including the often hushed-up snag that it has to burn fossil fuels and generate emissions in order to run on electricity.

Dendrobium – design inspired by an orchid

Named after an orchid, the all-electric super sports car Dendrobium is produced by Singapore company Vanda Electrics. With its futuristic design and an anticipated price sticker in the region of seven figures, the electric flower from the far east is scheduled to enter production in 2020, limited to a maximum run of 100 units, and surely needn't fear it will wilt in the showrooms. However, the Dendrobium will hardly be able to refute criticism that electric mobility is merely an expensive toy for wealthy enthusiasts.

Overall, visitors to the show will notice that plenty automotive innovations are being presented, albeit not so many from the big players - we might have expected more from them - but instead from the niche manufacturers, whose technologies are addressing the automotive market of the future, electric mobility. These are small, highly innovative companies that are still free from the protectionist, innovation-hostile structures of major corporations.

Small and innovative is facing up to big and traditional. Does performance preclude environmental awareness? Does the automotive industry fail to seek change because it isn't capable of change? nanoFlowcell Holdings shows with its latest electric sports car, the QUANT 48VOLT, that there doesn't have to be compromise.

QUANT 48VOLT by nanoFlowcell Holdings

Alongside all the star and starlets in Geneva, the QUANT 48VOLT is the most notable of the exotics. In terms of performance, it is right out in front alongside the big-displacement, big-power super sports cars of the world, yet its CO2 footprint is smaller than that of the Microlino. The low-voltage electric drive in the QUANT 48VOLT is fed by the nanoFlowcell® flow cell - a battery concept that is still unique in the automotive industry and unknown in the development departments of car makers worldwide. In Europe, research in the field of flow cell technology languishes in neglect. However, at nanoFlowcell - and elsewhere in the world - the potential of fuel cell technology has been recognised and not just in the design of electric drives for super sports cars.

At the stand of nanoFlowcell Holdings: huge LED towers visualize the uniqueness of flow cell technology.

The QUANT 48VOLT is, without a doubt, an eye-catcher, as evidenced by the number of visitors to the show stand. Giant LED installations signalled from a distance that this is the place to come for innovative energy technology and not for a show of muscle power. Nonetheless, many visitors to the QUANT stand at the show are surprised to find out that the QUANT 48VOLT and QUANTiNO 48VOLT are merely technology ambassadors for nanoFlowcell® technology and that the R&D company does not intend to build these cars in series production. A flurry of sales contracts for the QUANT 48VOLT and even more for the QUANTiNO 48VOLT could have been signed in the first week of the show alone. But instead, nanoFlowcell Holdings wants to convince established automakers of the concept behind the nanoFlowcell® 48VOLT low-voltage drive. An energy technology that can help electric mobility achieve its breakthrough - electric drive without forfeiting performance, without expensive and heavy batteries and without range extenders. An energy technology that is clean, environmentally responsible and cost-efficient. At the show, therefore, the intention is to talk to the industry - technologists, engineers and product planners - and never to tire of explaining the function and the potential of the nanoFlowcell® technology and the 48-volt low-voltage drive. Very few people are familiar with flow cells and, for almost all trade visitors, low-voltage still goes hand-in-hand with high current. The fact that the QUANT 48VOLT addresses this problem by using 45-phase low-voltage electric motors elicits astonished reactions: "45-phase low-voltage motors? Does such a thing really exist?" Yes, a motor technology remarkable in its ingenious simplicity.

Although representatives of many manufacturers have already test driven the QUANT FE or the QUANTiNO, for several thousand in the development departments and at decision-making level within the major corporations, innovations take some time to make the rounds ...

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