The world’s first titanium supercar and a new type of battery suitable for all season
How’s this for a cool looking number? It’s the new Vulcano Titanium, said to be the world’s first titanium car. Given its blend of low weight, strength and corrosion resistance, one would expect to see titanium all over high-performance sports cars. But whilst the material isn’t entirely absent from the segment, its price keeps it relegated to a very limited number of applications. The Pagani Huayra has a carbon-titanium monocoque, there’s the titanium-graphene-carbon chassis of the GTA Spano, the exhaust system of the Bentley GT3-R and a few bits and pieces on an assortment of exotic. What’s been missing is an entire sports car body built from titanium, which is what sets the Vulcano Titanium apart. The body, which also contains carbon fibre, was hand-built by Italian coachbuilder Cecomp over the course of about 1000 hours.
According to designer Samuel Chuffart, inspiration came from the world’s fastest plane: “The Blackbird SR-71, with its sharp and dramatic silhouette complimenting its sensual surface transitions was key to the styling of the Vulcano.”
Builders Icona fancies the titanium body as a fine sculpture; so it didn’t bother muddying it up with paint before revealing it at Pebble Beach. All attention was focused on that bare titanium and the car stood out quite effectively amidst the glossy carbon fibre and deep hues surrounding it at the event. Underneath its titanium suit of armor, the new Vulcano is powered by a supercharged LS9 V8 mounted in mid-front position.
Icona has tuned GM’s mill to 670hp (500kW) and 620lb-ft (840Nm) and says that it can be dialed right up to over 1,000 hp (746kW). Former Scuderia Ferrari engineer Claudio Lombardi and Mario Cavagnero of Lancia Racing fame, who chose to pair the V8 with an Automac Modena paddle-shift close ratio transmission, put the powertrain together. Its estimated performance 0-96.5km/h in 2.8 seconds, 0-193km/h) in 8.8 seconds with a top of 354km/h at which point you trust that the Pirelli P Zero tyres won’t melt and Brembo hardware will bring it all to a smooth stop.
The company reckon that the titanium Vulcano as a ‘one off’, so it doesn’t look like there are any plans to build a limited number for select clientele, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, seen here giving it the once over…the car that is! Still a titanium body does seem like an awfully attractive bragging right for folks carrying an insatiable appetite for lavish hypercars, though.
Coming back down to earth, the good old reliable car battery has come in for a fair bit of stick in the past few years. Heavy, dirty and redundant are just some of the nicer things said. We all know that it’s a terrible feeling when you’re running, rush out to the car, slam the door, turn the key…and nothing! Dead battery. We’ve all had that happen at one time or another and it really give the lead/acid battery an undeserved bad name. After all, when was the last time you check it out? In fact, when was the last time you even gave it a thought.
But help is on the way, and it’s not the NRMA. Silicon Valley startup Ohm Laboratories believe that there’s some room for improvement and new thinking and have come up with what it says is an energy storage and management system in a battery-sized case. The unit has an integrated processor that monitors the power level and automatically cuts power when the battery drops to a critical level. So, if you accidentally leave your lights on, Ohm will shut itself down before going dead and then turn itself back on within about 30 seconds when you start up the vehicle.
The self shut-off system is a handy feature to have during the battery’s effective life, but there’s one dead battery issue it can’t help with and that is end of life. That’s why the battery also has a replacement warning system. The system beeps to let you know it’s time for replacement, and Ohm says it works more quickly and accurately than the battery warning light on the dashboard.
Unlike the lead acid construction, Ohm uses a combination of lithium iron phosphate batteries and supercapacitors and it’s these that deliver the quick burst of electricity for starting. LiFePO4 batteries keep the supercapacitors charged when the engine is off, so it’s ready to go when you twist the key or punch the ignition button. Ohm says that the LiFePO4/supercapacitor configuration gives the battery a seven-year lifespan, which is around double that of the average lead acid battery. It also makes claims of better performance in cold weather.
Assuming it doesn’t gain any bulk before production, the Ohm is also a lot lighter than a lead acid battery. The estimated 2.7kgs look light right off the bat, but when you compare it to the 15.9kgs of a group size 35 lead acid battery weighs, it’s downright feathery. That loss not only cuts down the vehicle’s weight, it makes the Ohm easier to handle during replacement.
While lighter internally, the Ohm’s body is sized to slide into existing cars’ battery wells and connect just like a lead acid car battery. The unit comes in two sizes: one designed to fit neatly in cars that accept group size 35 batteries and one designed for smaller battery wells. The company has an Indiegogo page where customers can match the battery to their car.
The only downside seems to be a small 10Ah reserve capacity that could be a problem if there is a need to run electrical equipment and accessories with the engine switched off, in which case, Ohm suggests sticking with a standard lead acid battery, but at least there’s no risk of running the battery dead with the Ohm self shut-off. The company claims to have tested its battery over thousands of miles but says that it still has a lot of testing left to do on aspects like life cycle, temperature rating and battery management circuitry.
Its numbers are not finalised, so the aforementioned seven-year lifespan, 10Ah reserve capacity and 6lb weight are still subject to change, as are the 500 peak cold cranking amps and -30 to 50° C operating range. Ohm has worked with the seed funders at Y Combinator and has turned to Indiegogo to raise the additional funding it needs to complete testing, finalise the design, purchase tooling and get production started.
To date, it is closing in on its US$50,000 goal with 23 days left to go and the lowest early bird pledge levels have sold out, but the Ohm battery is still available at $199, a $20 discount off the estimated retail price. That price is probably a lot higher than you’d spend on a lead acid battery at the local auto parts store, but if the Ohm performs as promised, it may be worth it. Source: Ohm