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Rimac Sees Liquid-Fueled Nanotube Tech As A Viable Replacement For Heavy EV Batteries


Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) have taken the world by storm, but their reign is not absolute. Croatian hypercar manufacturer, Rimac, is peering into a future where batteries are obsolete, replaced by a revolutionary technology: liquid-fueled electricity generation using nanotubes. This nascent concept, still in its experimental phase, holds the potential to rewrite the rules of the electric game, particularly in the realm of high-performance vehicles.


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Imagine ditching the bulky battery packs and replacing them with a system that harnesses the power of liquid fuels like LPG, hydrogen, or even diesel, to create electricity on the fly. This is the essence of Rimac’s vision, where microscopic tubes made of carbon (nanotubes) are coated with superheated fuel, generating electricity through their unique electrical properties.

The beauty lies in the flexibility. Unlike battery-powered EVs, with their limitations in weight, range, and charging times, nanotube offers a glimpse of a world with lighter, faster-charging vehicles that can potentially leverage existing fuel infrastructure. Imagine topping up your electric hypercar with LPG at the gas station – a futuristic scenario that could become reality.

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In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from Rimac, Chemceed, ScienceDirect, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), IntechOpen and other reliable sources.


A Glimmer Of A Battery-Free Future

Rimac Nevera going around the Nurburgring

At the heart of this technology lies a novel approach to energy conversion. Instead of relying on bulky battery packs, Rimac envisions a system where unique liquid fuels are superheated to create a thin film across nanotubes, microscopic tubes made of carbon atoms. These nanotubes possess unique electrical properties, allowing them to convert the thermal energy from the heated fuel film into electricity.

While the exact specifics of Rimac’s implementation remain under wraps, the underlying principle is similar to a method developed by researchers at MIT. This method employs a specific type of nanotubes that, when coated with the heated fuel film, undergo a change in their electrical resistance, generating a current.

Fueling The Future

Rimac Concept One Grey
Rimac

The beauty of this approach lies in its fuel flexibility. In an interview with Autocar, Mate Rimac the CEO of Bugatti and Rimac highlighted the potential for using diverse liquid fuels, including liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), hydrogen, and even diesel. This versatility could offer several advantages over traditional electric vehicles:

  • Reduced reliance on lithium-ion batteries: With their inherent limitations in terms of weight, range, and charging times, battery packs are a major bottleneck in electric vehicle performance. Nanotube-based electricity generation could potentially address these challenges, leading to lighter and potentially faster-charging vehicles.
  • Fuel infrastructure compatibility: Existing fuel infrastructure for LPG and diesel could be partially leveraged for nanotube-powered vehicles, easing the transition to this new technology.
  • Higher energy density: Certain fuels, like hydrogen, offer significantly higher energy density compared to batteries, potentially leading to longer driving ranges.

Partnering For Progress While Facing Hurdles

Rear three-quarter view of the Rimac Nevera Time Attack Edition
Rimac

According to Mate Rimac, their pursuit of this technology is not a solo endeavor. The company has partnered with an unnamed startup that has already achieved 80-percent fuel efficiency with nanotubes on a small scale. This collaboration is crucial for further development and scaling up the technology for real-world application.

However, significant challenges remain. The emissions produced by burning liquid fuels, even with the potential efficiency gains of nanotubes, could pose a hurdle in light of increasingly stringent environmental regulations. Additionally, the technology’s infancy presents uncertainties regarding its long-term viability and cost-effectiveness.

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Nanotube Technology Is A Futuristic Power Source

Imagine rolling a sheet of graphene (a single layer of carbon atoms) into a seamless cylinder – that’s essentially a carbon nanotube (CNT). These microscopic marvels, barely a millionth of a hair’s breadth wide, possess exceptional properties that defy conventional materials.

  • Unprecedented Strength: CNTs are roughly 200 times stronger than steel, yet incredibly lightweight, making them ideal for high-performance components.
  • Superlative Conductivity: They can conduct electricity and heat better than any other material, paving the way for efficient energy transfer and dissipation.
  • Remarkable Versatility: Their unique structure allows for manipulation at the atomic level, enabling customization of electrical, thermal, and even chemical properties.

Nanotubes As Power Players

Rimac Nevera
Rimac

The potential of CNTs as a power source hinges on their ability to store and release energy in various ways. One promising approach involves using them as electrodes in supercapacitors or batteries. The large surface area of CNTs allows for exceptional energy storage, potentially enabling faster charging and longer range for electric vehicles.

Another exciting avenue lies in utilizing CNTs to convert thermal energy (from exhaust heat, for example) into electricity via thermoelectric generators. This waste-to-energy conversion could significantly improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.

Beyond batteries and thermoelectric generators, CNTs could also contribute to lighter, more efficient solar cells or even facilitate direct conversion of chemical energy from liquid fuels into electricity. However, these technologies remain in early stages of development, and significant hurdles need to be overcome before widespread adoption.

Gearing Up For The Nanotube Era

Nevera_SP
Rimac 

Integrating CNT technology into vehicles wouldn’t be without its challenges. Mass production of high-quality CNTs at an affordable cost remains a hurdle. Additionally, concerns regarding toxicity and potential environmental impact need to be addressed before large-scale implementation.

Despite these challenges, the potential benefits of CNT technology for vehicles are undeniable. Reduced emissions, enhanced efficiency, and lighter, more powerful drivetrains are just a few of the possibilities. Rimac’s teaser, while shrouded in mystery, suggests a potential application of CNTs involving liquid fuels, which could address current range limitations of electric vehicles.

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More Efficient Compared To Traditional Gasoline Engines

Rimac Nevera
Rimac

While the liquid-fueled nanotube technology remains in its early stages, its potential for efficiency surpasses traditional gas engines. Estimates suggest it could achieve up to 80% fuel efficiency, compared to the average 20-30% for gasoline engines. This translates to significantly less fuel consumption and potentially longer driving ranges. However, it’s important to note that these are theoretical projections, and actual efficiency may vary depending on factors like fuel type, operating conditions, and production scale.

Implications For Zero-Emission Goals

While the technology promises increased efficiency, its environmental impact remains a critical question. The emissions profile will depend heavily on the specific fuel used. Utilizing renewable fuels like hydrogen or biofuels could significantly reduce CO2 emissions compared to gasoline. However, if fossil fuels are employed, the emissions might still be higher than electric vehicles charged with renewable energy. Further research and development are necessary to optimize the technology for minimal environmental impact.

Lighter And More Powerful Electric Vehicles

2023 Rimac Nevera in gray posing on city street
Rimac 

The enhanced efficiency of nanotube technology could lead to lighter, more compact power sources for electric vehicles. This would translate to:

  • Increased range: Smaller and lighter batteries will allow for more energy storage without sacrificing vehicle weight, leading to longer driving distances on a single charge.
  • Improved performance: Lighter weight will enhance acceleration and handling, making electric vehicles far more competitive in terms of performance and driving dynamics.

From Hypercars To Hyperspeed

One of the biggest challenges for high-performance electric vehicles is the heat generated at high speeds. Nanotube systems, with their potentially superior heat management capabilities, could offer a solution, paving the way for electric vehicles to break the mph barrier. This will revolutionize motorsport and push the boundaries of electric vehicle performance.

Rimac’s primary motivation lies in enhancing the performance of its electric hypercars. Nanotube technology could provide lighter power sources than current battery packs, boosting power-to-weight ratios and potentially unlocking record-breaking speeds and acceleration.

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A Marriage Ordained By Innovation

Bugatti Chiron And Rimac Nevera
Rimac

The 2021 merger between Rimac, the Croatian EV hypercar startup, and Bugatti, the French luxury brand known for its gas-guzzling beasts, has sent ripples through the automotive world. While the initial focus has been on the clash of cultures and legacies, the true story lies in the future these two companies will forge together – a future inextricably linked to innovation in the electric vehicle (EV) landscape.

Two Titans Morphed Into One

Rimac brings to the table its expertise in cutting-edge EV technology. Its Nevera hypercar boasts incredible performance, pushing the boundaries of what an electric vehicle can achieve. This expertise will be crucial in developing the next generation of Bugattis, as the brand transitions from gas-powered monsters to electric marvels.

Bugatti, on the other hand, possesses an unparalleled heritage and brand power. Its iconic name carries immense weight in the luxury automotive sector. This brand recognition and established clientele will be invaluable in attracting buyers to the new, electrified Bugattis.

Innovation At The Forefront

Blue Nevera driving
Rimac

The merger creates a powerhouse of innovation. Rimac’s technology and Bugatti’s legacy will combine to push the boundaries of EV development, leading to groundbreaking vehicles that are not just fast and efficient, but also luxurious and desirable. Rimac’s recent exploration of liquid-fueled nanotube technology for EV powertrains is a prime example of this forward-thinking approach.



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