Can This Electric Car Really Run On Salt Water?

It seems to good to be true, and it might very well be.

Unlike other electric cars, the new Quant e-Sportlimousine, now under development in Switzerland, never gets plugged in. Instead, the car uses two huge tanks full of electrolyte fluids that are pumped through cells to generate electricity. The advantage? If it works as the designers hope, it will be able to drive as far as 370 miles on a charge.


Compared to a traditional lead battery, the designers say their new flow cell battery system can store 20 times as much energy, so it can drive 20 times as far. That’s also five times farther than the standard lithium ion batteries that many electric cars use now.

Without the typical rare earth components used in other batteries, it’s also designed to be better for the environment–it can supposedly recharge 10,000 times, and the saltwater-like fluid could potentially be diluted and poured down the drain for disposal.

It’s fast, at least according to the designers’ computer simulations. It takes only 2.8 seconds to reach 62 miles per hour, and the top speed is over 230 miles an hour. But there’s a catch.

So far, nothing about any of these performance claims has been proven. There’s some doubt that it would work at all–the inventor has been even convicted of fraud, in the past, for convincing people to invest in his designs, as this Swiss news article explains (in German).

Still, the company says they have a working prototype of the car now, and it’s been certified by the German testing company TUV-Saar for testing on German roads, so it should soon become clear if it lives up to its claims.

This movie-trailer like promo video shows a car in action, but it was filmed using a shell around a different type of drive train:


Even if it works, the technology would have some challenges. Unlike regular charging stations for electric cars, which are fairly easy to install, it would require an entirely new network of stations that could handle switching out 100-gallon tanks of fluid. It would no longer be possible to charge an electric car at home.

But the battery might have interesting potential for other applications–similar flow cells are already in use to store solar and wind energy, and if the new technology works as well as designers claim, it could be used for everything from airplanes to providing power in remote communities off the grid.


About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.