A titanic electric sports car from Britain

It's not a Porsche, a Ferrari or a Tesla, nor a Jaguar or even an MG. But the electric Lightning GT features classic British sports car design plus something special - a lithium titanate battery.

It’s not just the tennis world that will turn its attention to the UK this weekend when Wimbledon crowns its 2011 champions.

So, too, will motoring enthusiasts, as the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed revs up today through July 3 in Chichester, some 50 miles southwest of London near the English Channel.

There, they’ll see a prototype of the Lightning GT, the good-looking car pictured above, designed by the UK’s Lightning Car Company.

Lightning’s website boasts that the GT “combines elegant and timeless British sports car design with a super strong aluminium composite structure competition bred chassis technology and a futuristic all electric super car powertrain.” Nothing in the photo makes me doubt that much.

I did, however, get curious about one of the car’s standout features – a lithium titanate battery, not to be confused, exactly, with the more commonly known lithium ion battery. More on titanate from Lightning:

“Lightning has developed an automotive application of the nano-structured lithium titanate battery system - already well proven in arduous US military applications - to provide the ultimate in clean energy storage: stable, safe operation at extreme ambient temperatures; ultra-fast recharging yet an exceptionally long cycle life; power capacity that not only supports supercar performance but can absorb full regenerative braking energy.”

Wow, “nano-structured.”

I’m no expert on lithium titanate, so I looked it up on that ultimate arbiter of knowledge and information, Wikipedia.

Here’s Wiki’s take: “The lithium-titanate battery is a type of rechargeable battery, which has the advantage of being faster to charge than other lithium-ion batteries. Some analysts speculate that lithium-titanate batteries will power electric cars of the future.

A lithium-titanate battery is a modified lithium-ion battery that uses lithium-titanate nanocrystals on the surface of its anode instead of carbon. This gives the anode a surface area of about 100 square meters per gram, compared with 3 square meters per gram for carbon, allowing electrons to enter and leave the anode quickly. This makes fast recharging possible and provides high currents when needed. The disadvantage is that lithium-titanate batteries have a lower voltage and capacity than conventional lithium-ion battery technologies.”

Ah, lower capacity. That won’t excite too many people already unhappy over the limited 100-mile or less range of typical electric vehicles.

Still, this deserves a look. And maybe Lightning can solve the range challenge by the time it puts the car on sale, which it says will be in late 2012.

I won’t be at Goodwood. If you go, or even if you don’t, let us know what you think. Is the Lighting a worthy bolt out of the blue, a flash in the pan, or what?

Photo: Lightning Car Company

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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