In conversation with Nunzio La Vecchia ahead of the 2016 Geneva International Motor Show
You have caused a lot of uproar in recent months with your nanoFlowcell® drive technology. Are you about to revolutionise the automotive industry?
No, that's not our intention. We are building on cooperative partnerships with car makers to establish our innovative technology on the market. However, we will revolutionise the perception of what sustainable and clean electromobility means. With nanoFlowcell®, we are offering the most efficient and effective alternative to the current technological concepts for driving all-electric vehicles. Can we do something others can't? Yes! Because nanoFlowcell® is one of the most innovative and flexible technologies for producing and storing energy - sustainable and inexpensive to produce, efficient and environmentally friendly to run, and harmless and environmentally responsible to dispose of. What we see here is a world of opportunities, because nanoFlowcell® is not restricted to the automobile, but also represents a very interesting alternative for energy supply to the likes of homes, ships, aircraft and rail traffic. We're still at the very beginning of opening up the full potential of this innovative invention.
You say your flow-cell-based nanoFlowcell® technology has a broad application spectrum. Yet we have so far only seen it in cars. Why is that?
We opted to approach the toughest application for the nanoFlowcell® first. nanoFlowcell® technology can obviously also be used in shipping, aerospace and railways. But by debuting the nanoFlowcell® in a car - and a high-performance sports car like the QUANT FE at that - we will surely reach a bigger audience. Plus, the QUANT FE has more sex appeal than a stationary solar-cell electricity storage medium for domestic use. You have to admit that. However, the QUANT vehicles are primarily technology showcases for nanoFlowcell®, and our mobile test labs to help us continue the development of nanoFlowcell® technology - faster than it would have been possible for us to do in DigiLab purely with simulation processes. In addition, the QUANT FE and QUANTiNO are excellent product ambassadors. Their distinctive, sporty looks are an impressive demonstration of what makes nanoFlowcell® technology so unique - environmentally friendly and sustainable in operation, neither flammable nor explosive and completely harmless to health as well as environmentally friendly to recycle.
QUANTiNO and QUANT F celebrated their world premieres as concept vehicles at last year's Geneva Motor Show. What kind of technical developments have taken place since then?
We fundamentally reconceived the QUANTiNO and it was granted a Europe-wide road licence in February. This means the QUANTiNO is the first and so far only road-legal 48 V low-voltage electric car. The low-voltage drive with nanoFlowcell® technology is not only environmentally friendly and pollutant free, it also provides the QUANTiNO with unparalleled performance. 108 hp may not sound like much, but they deliver enormous driving fun. The linear acceleration of the electric drive in the QUANTiNO is utterly fascinating. The QUANTiNO is not an hp monster, but an all-wheel drive sports car for everyday use. Electromobility for every day. With acceleration from zero to 100 km/h in less than five seconds and a top speed of more than 200 km/h, everyday life doesn't have to be dull in the QUANTiNO. However, with a range of more than 1,000 on a single tank it is certainly comfortable and convenient. But enough of the hard facts. No other car has ever had all these merits in a single package. Therefore, I think I'm justified in saying the QUANTiNO is the most innovative vehicle on our roads today.
Driven by you?
Yes, at the moment there is only one test car, which I drive willingly and extensively on our proving grounds. Since we were granted a road licence for the QUANTiNO, it's also now possible to test the car's everyday qualities on public roads. My team and I love the vehicle and I'm certain that we'll soon be sharing our enthusiasm for the QUANTiNO with other automotive enthusiasts.
And what has happened with the QUANT F?
The QUANT F is a very different beast. As a super sports car, it should demonstrate high performance - in every aspect. The current QUANT F is now called QUANT FE, where the E stands for evolution. It has undergone a great many detail improvements. As a result, the QUANT FE is appearing in Geneva this year fit for production. The interior and exterior are homologation ready. We've also improved some of the technical details in the drive and made some finishing touches to the interior. The QUANT FE is therefore no longer just a concept vehicle, but has now actually reached production maturity.
Does that mean that you'll produce the QUANT FE?
Let me put it this way: Series production is possible - something that also applies to the QUANTiNO, by the way. We are currently running a number of tests and project studies for low-volume modular production. However, I don't want to pre-empt the results of these investigations. But allow me to stress that nanoFlowcell AG does not intend to become a car manufacturer. Plus, production would not be possible without extensive production expertise and external partners. We are a small research and development company with a groundbreaking technology that has the potential to accelerate progress towards an electromobility society. We want to continue developing this technology and be a strong partner to industry as a research and development company.
Are you talking about industrial partnerships? Are you able to give us any specifics?
It's still too early to name specific partners. I don't want to do that yet. But when it comes to the corporate development of nanoFlowcell AG and the expansion of our product portfolio powered by nanoFlowcell®, we will focus heavily in future on building strategic partnerships and cooperations with big-name companies. We believe that partners with excellent market access can help us establish nanoFlowcell® on the market. The industry is showing a great deal of interest and we are already involved in positive discussions.
Last year there were rumours of a possible stock-market flotation for nanoFlowcell AG. Is there any truth in this?
In order to be able to drive the growth of the company even harder in future, we are evaluating a number of strategic options. These also include a possible stock-market flotation, which could represent a sensible opportunity for progressing development of the flow cell and making it accessible to a broader public.
What are your criteria for evaluating possible partnerships and alternative options?
Since our first public appearance at the Geneva Motor Show, the interest in our QUANT vehicle concepts with nanoFlowcell® drive technology has been phenomenal. Our research and development team has shown courage by forging new ways in the research of flow cell technology that leading scientists dismissed just a few years ago as dead ends. We have proven ourselves in the face of all doubters with the aim of changing the (automotive) world for the better. Money is important to finance our research and development work, but monetary motivations are secondary for us. It's far more important for me to put together the best team of partners - financial and technical - so that nanoFlowcell® doesn't end up in the patent drawer of some multinational with special interests, but instead becomes the future drive for all electric cars. As a sustainable energy carrier and an environmentally friendly drive technology, the future belongs to nanoFlowcell®. I'm absolutely certain of that.
What is nanoFlowcell AG currently working on?
We need to get more practical experience with the nanoFlowcell®. The QUANTiNO has just been licensed for road use and we're planning extensive test drives in real-life conditions over the coming weeks and months. This practical experience will, on the one hand, provide us with operational durability information on the nanoFlowcell® and, on the other, help us reach a decision on low-volume production of the QUANTiNO and QUANT FE. Beyond that, the development potential of the nanoFlowcell® is - as I said - enormous. After we have successfully demonstrated the use and benefits of nanoFlowcell® technology in the automotive sector, we will turn our attention to other applications for nanoFlowcell®. But more on that in due course.
Thank you for talking to us