Category Archives: Automotive

Significant Advances in the Use of Flow Cell Batteries

My 31 January 2015 post, “Flow Cell Battery Technology Being Tested as an Automotive Power Source,” addressed flow cell battery (also known as redox flow cell battery) technology being applied by the Swiss firm nanoFlowcell AG for use in automotive all-electric power plants. The operating principles of their nanoFlowcell® battery are discussed here:

This flow cell battery doesn’t use rare or hard-to-recycle raw materials and is refueled by adding “bi-ION” aqueous electrolytes that are “neither toxic nor harmful to the environment and neither flammable nor explosive.” Water vapor is the only “exhaust gas” generated by a nanoFlowcell®.

The e-Sportlimousine and the QUANT FE cars successfully demonstrated a high-voltage electric power automotive application of nanoFlowcell® technology.

Since my 2015 post, flow cell batteries have not made significant inroads as an automotive power source, however, the firm now named nanoFlowcell Holdings remains the leader in automotive applications of this battery technology. You can get an update on their current low-voltage (48 volt) automotive flow cell battery technology and two very stylish cars, the QUANT 48VOLT and the QUANTiNO, at the following link:

QUANT 48VOLT. Source: nanoFlowcell Holdings.QUANTiNO. Source: nanoFlowcell Holdings.

In contrast to most other electric car manufacturers, nanoFlowcell Holdings has adopted a low voltage (48 volt) electric power system for which it claims the following significant benefits.

“The intrinsic safety of the nanoFlowcell® means its poles can be touched without danger to life and limb. In contrast to conventional lithium-ion battery systems, there is no risk of an electric shock to road users or first responders even in the event of a serious accident. Thermal runaway, as can occur with lithium-ion batteries and lead to the vehicle catching fire, is not structurally possible with a nanoFlowcell® 48VOLT drive. The bi-ION electrolyte liquid – the liquid “fuel” of the nanoFlowcell® – is neither flammable nor explosive. Furthermore, the electrolyte solution is in no way harmful to health or the environment. Even in the worst-case scenario, no danger could possibly arise from either the nanoFlowcell® 48VOLT low-voltage drive or the bi-ION electrolyte solution.”

In comparison, the more conventional lithium-ion battery systems in the Tesla, Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 electric cars typically operate in the 355 – 375 volt range and the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell electric power system operates at about 650 volts.

In the high-performance QUANT 48VOLT “supercar,” the low-voltage application of flow cell technology delivers extreme performance [560 kW (751 hp), 300 km/h (186 mph) top speed] and commendable range [ >1,000 kilometers (621 miles)]. The car’s four-wheel drive system is comprised of four 140 kW (188 hp), 45-phase, low-voltage motors and has been optimized to minimize the volume and weight of the power system relative to the previous high-voltage systems in the e-Sportlimousine and QUANT FE.

The smaller QUANTiNO is designed as a practical “every day driver.”  You can read about a 2016 road test in Switzerland, which covered 1,167 km (725 miles) without refueling, at the following link:

A version of the QUANTiNO without supercapacitors currently is being tested. In this version, the energy for the electric motors comes directly from the flow cell battery, without any buffer storage in between. These tests are intended to refine the battery management system (BMS) and demonstrate the practicality of an even simpler, but lower performance, 48-volt power system.

Both the QUANT 48VOLT and QUANTiNO were represented at the 2017 Geneva Auto Show.

QUANT 48VOLT (left) and QUANTiNO (right). Source: nanoFlowcell Holdings.

You can read more about these cars at this auto show at the following link:

I think the automotive applications of flow cell battery technology look very promising, particularly with the long driving range possible with these batteries, the low environmental impact of the electrolytes, and the inherent safety of the low-voltage power system. I wouldn’t mind having a QUANT 48VOLT or QUANTiNO in my garage, as long as I could refuel at the end of a long trip.

Electrical utility-scale applications of flow cell batteries

In my 4 March 2016 post, “Dispatchable Power from Energy Storage Systems Help Maintain Grid Stability,” I noted that the reason we need dispatchable grid storage systems is because of the proliferation of grid-connected intermittent generators and the need for grid operators to manage grid stability regionally and across the nation. I also noted that battery storage is only one of several technologies available for grid-connected energy storage systems.

Flow cell battery technology has entered the market as a utility-scale energy storage / power system that offers some advantages over more conventional battery storage systems, such as the sodium-sulfur (NaS) battery system offered by Mitsubishi, the lithium-ion battery systems currently dominating this market, offered by GS Yuasa International Ltd. (system supplied by Mitsubishi), LG Chem, Tesla, and others, and the lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery system being tested in California’s GridSaverTM program. Flow cell battery advantages include:

  • Flow cell batteries have no “memory effect” and are capable of more than 10,000 “charge cycles”. In comparison, the lifetime of lead-acid batteries is about 500 charge cycles and lithium-ion battery lifetime is about 1,000 charge cycles. While a 1,000 charge cycle lifetime may be adequate for automotive applications, this relatively short battery lifetime will require an inordinate number of battery replacements during the operating lifetime of a utility-scale, grid-connected energy storage system.
  • The energy converter (the flow cell) and the energy storage medium (the electrolyte) are separate. The amount of energy stored is not dependent on the size of the battery cell, as it is for conventional battery systems. This allows better storage system scalability and optimization in terms of maximum power output (i.e., MW) vs. energy storage (i.e., MWh).
  • No risk of thermal runaway, as may occur in lithium-ion battery systems

The firm UniEnergy Technologies (UET) offers two modular energy storage systems based on flow cell battery technology: ReFlex and the much larger Uni.System™, which can be applied in utility-scale dispatchable power systems. UET describes the Uni.System™ as follows:

“Each Uni.System™ delivers 600kW power and 2.2MWh maximum energy in a compact footprint of only five 20’ containers. Designed to be modular, multiple Uni.System can be deployed and operated with a density of more than 20 MW per acre, and 40 MW per acre if the containers are double-stacked.”

One Uni.System™ module. Source: UET

You can read more on the Uni.System™ at the following link:

The website Global Energy World reported that UET recently installed a 2 MW / 8 MWh vanadium flow battery system at a Snohomish Public Utility District (PUD) substation near Everett, Wash. This installation was one of five different energy storage projects awarded matching grants in 2014 through the state’s Clean Energy Fund. See the short article at the following link:

Source: Snohomish PUD

Snohomish PUD concurrently is operating a modular, smaller (1 MW / 0.5 MWh) lithium ion battery energy storage installation. The PUD explains:

“The utility is managing its energy storage projects with an Energy Storage Optimizer (ESO), a software platform that runs in its control center and maximizes the economics of its projects by matching energy assets to the most valuable mix of options on a day-ahead, hour-ahead and real-time basis.”

You can read more about these Snohomish PUD energy storage systems at the following link:

The design of both Snohomish PUD systems are based on the Modular Energy Storage Architecture (MESA), which is described as, “an open, non-proprietary set of specifications and standards developed by an industry consortium of electric utilities and technology suppliers. Through standardization, MESA accelerates interoperability, scalability, safety, quality, availability, and affordability in energy storage components and systems.” You’ll find more information on MESA standards here:

Application of the MESA standards should permit future system upgrades and module replacements as energy storage technologies mature.


BLOODHOUND SSC Making Progress Toward a World Land Speed Record Attempt in 2017

The BLOODHOUND Project bills itself as an international education initiative focused around a 1,000 mph World Land Speed Record attempt.

“The primary objective of the Project is to inspire the next generation to pursue careers in science, engineering, technology and math – by demonstrating how they can be harnessed to achieve the impossible, such as a jet and rocket powered car capable of setting a new World Land Speed Record.”

Since my first post in the BLOODHOUND Project on 2 March 2015, the project team has made great progress in designing, developing, constructing and testing the BLOODHOUND SSC (supersonic car) and its many components and systems.  This will be a very interesting year as the BLOODHOUND Project works up to a world land speed record attempt currently planned for November 2017 on Hakskeen Pan in South Africa.

You’ll find the BLOODHOUND website, with its many resources, at the following link:

You can subscribe to the BLOODHOUND newsletter here:

The project team has established an extensive video record of their work on YouTube. Starting at their YouTube home page at the following link, you can navigate through a very interesting video library.

On 9 January 2017, the BLOODHOUND Project announced that they had launched a new series of short video programs that will take viewers through the inner workings of the land speed record car. The first video in the Anatomy of the Car series is at the following link:


You can subscribe to the BLOODHOUND videos directly on their YouTube home page.

I hope you will share my enthusiasm for this inspirational international project and take time to understand the remarkable systems integration work being done by the BLOODHOUND Project.

VBB-3, the World’s Most Powerful Electric Car, will Challenge the Land Speed Record in 2016

Venturi Buckeye Bullet-3 (VBB-3) is an all-electric, four wheel drive, land speed record (LSR) car that has been designed to exceed 400 mph (643.7 km/h). The organizations involved in this project are:

  • Venturi Automobiles:

This Monaco-based company is a leader in the field of high performance electric vehicles. Read more at the Venturi website at the following link:

  • Ohio State University (OSU) Center for Automotive Research (CAR):

OSU’s CAR has been engaged in all-electric LSR development and testing since 2000. On 3 October 2004 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, the original nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery-powered Buckeye Bullet reached a top speed of 321.834 mph (517.942 km/h).

In an on-going program known as Mission 01, started in 2009, OSU partnered with Venturi to develop, test, and conduct the land speed record runs of the hydrogen fuel cell-powered VBB-2, the battery-powered VBB-2.5, and the more powerful battery-powered VBB-3.  Read more at the OSU / CAR website at following link:

 The Venturi – OSU team’s accomplishments to date are:

  • 2009:  The team’s first world land speed record was achieved on the Bonneville Salt Flats with hydrogen fuel cell-powered VBB-2 at 303 mph (487 km/h).
  •  2010:  The team returned to the salt flats with the 700 hp lithium-ion battery powered VBB-2.5 which set another world record at 307 mph (495 km/h); with a top speed at 320 mph (515 km/h).
  •  2013:  The 3,000 hp lithium iron phosphate battery-powered VBB-3 was unveiled. Due to the flooding of the Bonneville Salt Flats, the FIA and the organizers of the world speed records program cancelled the 2013 competition.
  •  2014Poor track conditions at Bonneville persisted after flooding from a summer storm. Abbreviated test runs by VBB-3 yielded a world record in its category (electric vehicle over 3.5 metric tons) with an average speed of 212 mph (341 km/h) and a top speed of 270 mph (435 km/h).
  •  2015:  Poor track conditions at Bonneville persisted after flooding from a summer storm. Abbreviated test runs by VBB-3 yielded a world record in its category (electric vehicle over 3.5 metric tons) with an average speed of 212 mph (341 km/h) and a top speed of 270 mph (435 km/h).

You will find a comparison of the VBB-2, VBB-2.5 and VBB-3 vehicles at the following link:

VBB-3 has a 37.2 ft. (11.35 meter) long, slender, space frame chassis that houses eight battery packs with a total of 2,000 cells, two 1,500 hp AC induction motors developed by Venturi for driving the front and rear wheels, a coolant system for the power electronics, disc brakes and a braking parachute, and a small cockpit for the driver. The basic internal arrangement of these components in the VBB-3 chassis is shown in the following diagram.

VBB-3 internalSource: Venturi

You can see a short video of a test drive of VBB-3 without its external skin at the following link:

The exterior aerodynamic carbon fiber shell was designed with the aid of the OSU Supercomputer Center to minimize vehicle drag and lift.

VBB-3 skinSource: Venturi

The completed VBB-3 with members of the project team is shown below.

VBB-3 completeSource: Venturi

A good video showing the 2010 VBB-2.5 record run and a 2014 test run of VBB-3 is at the following link:

VBB-3 currently is being prepared in the OSU / CAR workshop in Columbus, Ohio, for another attempt at the land speed record in summer 2016. A team of about 25 engineers and students are planning to be at the Bonneville Salt Flats in summer 2016 with the goal of surpassing 372 mph (600 km/h).

You can subscribe to Venturi new releases on VBB-3 at the following link:

VBB-3 at BonnevilleSource: Venturi

Update 2 January 2017: VBB-3 sets new EV land speed record

On 19 September 2016, VBB-3 set an electric vehicle (Category A Group VIII Class 8) land-speed record of 341.4 mph (549 kph), during a two-way run within one hour on the Bonneville salt flats in Utah. You can read the OSU announcement at the following link:

You also can watch a short video of VBB-3’s record run at the following link:

Certification of this EV speed record by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile’s (FIA) is still pending.

The Venturi-OSU team believes VBB-3 has the capability to achieve 435 mph (700 kph) in the right conditions, so we can expect more record attempts in the future.

Just How Flat is Hakskeen Pan?

If you will be driving the UK’s Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC) in 2016, you really care about the answer to that question.

Hakskeen Pan is a very flat region in the Northwestern corner of South Africa, and it is the site selected by the Bloodhound Project team for a 16 km (9.94 mile) track that will be used for their world land speed record attempt.

Hakskeen Pan mapSource: adapted from

My 2 March 2015 post introduced you to the Bloodhound Project and gave you the link to their website where you can get a complete update on the project and sign up for their blog. Here again is the link to the Bloodhound Project home page:

So, how flat is Hakskeen Pan and how much does it matter to a land speed record car traveling at 1,000 mph (1,609 kph)? The Cape Town, South Africa, survey company Lloyd & Hill surveyed the entire 16 km by 500 meter wide track surface (an area of about 8 million square meters) measuring the elevation in each square meter to an accuracy of 10 mm (0.39 in) or less. Using laser-scanning technology to collect data, and some considerable computing resources, Lloyd & Hill reduced four billion laser measurements into a 3-dimensional surface map of Hakskeen Pan. Key findings were:

  • Hakskeen Pan has a very gentle slope from north to south: dropping 300 mm in 16 km (about one foot in 10 miles)
  • Across the whole surface, the biggest ‘bumps’ and ‘dips’ are less than 50 mm (2 inches) from the average elevation
  • There’s an 80 mm (3.12 in) ‘step’ that occurs in a distance of 180 m (590 ft) running across the Pan, just over 9 km from the northern end of the track, and just where the car will be travelling at 1,000 mph.

BLOODHOUND SSC-scanned area of Hakskeen PanSource: The Bloodhound Project

The Bloodhound SSC has independent double-wishbone suspension on all four wheels. Preliminary dynamic analysis of the Bloodhound SSC’s suspension response to the measured surface irregularities shows that the vehicle should not be subject to loads of more than 1.0 – 1.5 g during it’s world land speed record attempt.   The suspension is designed to cope with up to 4 g.

Check out the details of the Hakskeen Pan site survey and the vehicle dynamic analysis at the following link:’s-diary-–-august-2015

Also check out the Education tab on the Bloodhound Project website. I think you will be pleased to see how this exciting engineering project is working to engage with and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

23 January 2017 Update – Hakskeen Pan floods

 Hakskeen Pan flooded Jan2017Source: The Bloodhound Project

The Bloodhound team reported:

“This particular flood was caused mainly by the rain in Namibia and flooding from the rivers, rather than actual rainfall on the Pan and surrounding catchment area, as there are many rivers that flow into the Pan.

Having the desert flood like this is very good news for us, as flooding helps to repair the surface from any damage that may have been caused in the final preparation and clearance of the desert, and it helps to create the best possible surface for land speed record racing.”

Read more at the following link:


First Autonomous Car to Drive (Most of the Way) Across Country

American automotive supplier Delphi modified a 2014 Audi SQ5 to make it capable of driving autonomously and then had it drive 3,400 miles on highways from San Francisco to New York City. The human “co-pilot” took control for about 1% of the distance on city streets.

image Source:

Read the story, including details on the car’s autonomous driving features, at the following link:

An important point made in this article is the great speed with which autonomous vehicle technology has advanced. In the first DARPA Grand Challenge in March 2004, all 15 competing autonomous vehicles failed to complete a very difficult 142 mile off-road course from Barstow, CA to Primm, NV. The greatest distance completed by the “winner” was 7.32 miles. In September 2005, five vehicles completed a 132 mile Grand Challenge course in southern Nevada. The third Grand Challenge in 2007 was held in an urban street environment in Victorville, CA. Six of 11 competing teams completed the course. SAIC supported a team in all three Grand Challenges.

For more information, check out the 2014 article, “The DARPA Grand Challenge – 10 Years Later,” at the following link:

Read details on the 2004 Grand Challenge at the following link:

And details on the 2005 Grand Challenge at:

And details on the 2007 urban challenge at:



The BLOODHOUND Project – Creating a 1,000 mph Land Speed Record Car and Inspiring a New Generation of Engineers

This land speed record project has gained national attention in the UK, not only for it’s ambitious goal of setting a 1,000 mph speed record on land, but also as a source of inspiration for a new generation of engineers.  The “car” is propelled by a Rolls-Royce jet engine + a rocket engine.

Bloodhound lsrBLOODHOUND cdf

I think you’ll find the main website for the Bloodhound Project to be well-designed and very engaging,  Check it out at:

On the BLOODHOUND website, click on the “Education” tab to see how the project team is working to engage young engineers.

4 July 2016 Update:  BLOODHOUND announces date for world record attempt in October 2017

On 3 July 2016, the BLOODHOUND team announced:

“We’re delighted to announce that the target date for BLOODHOUND’s 800mph world land speed record attempt in October 2017, 20 years after Thrust SSC set the existing record. Funding has been secured, with major deals recently signed, and race preparation is underway for high speed runs at the Hakskeen Pan, Northern Cape, South Africa, in Autumn next year.

BLOODHOUND SSC will travel under its own power for the first time at Newquay in June 2017, in a slow speed shakedown test at around 220mph (354km/h). This will also be an opportunity for the team to practice live-streaming data and imagery from the car.”

You can read their complete announcement at the following link:

If you haven’t done so already, you can sign up for newsletters from the BLOODHOUND team at the following link:

Also check out my 8 September 2015 post, “Just How Flat is Hakskeen Pan?”.  This will be the venue for the world land speed record attempts.

“Flow cell” Battery Technology Being Tested as an Automotive Power Source

Here’s a great looking new German all-electric car that was introduced at the March 2014 Geneva Auto Show.  It’s a “research” car, not for sale, but an interesting preview of a possible future application of this battery technology in production cars.  The flow cell battery capacity in the e-Sportlimousine is reported to be 120 kWh.  Compare this to current all-electric cars using lithium-ion battery technology: the Tesla Model S has an 85 kWh battery and a Nissan Leaf has a 24 kWh battery.

 Flow-cell battery-powered carImage credit:

Check out the article on the e-Sportlimousine at the following link, which includes two short videos:

See many more details on this car and power system at the following nanoFLOWCELL AG YouTube site:

A 2014 press release from NanoFLOWCELL AG describes their battery technology and it’s operational use in the e-Sportlimousine, including a description of the power train and how the car is refueled.  See the following link:

Regarding the nano-network technology, Wikipedia reports:  “In August 2014, the Quant e-Sportlimousine was approved for testing on public roads using the nanoFLOWCELL® system with a claimed energy or power density of 600 Wh per kilogram (per litre of salt water electrolyte).”

If you are interested in the Tesla lithium-ion battery, check out the Nov 2014, “The Tesla Battery Report”, at the following link: