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Nissan starts developing the world’s first bio-ethanol fuel-cell powertrain for cars

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Posted June 17, 2016

Automotive industry is striving to deliver the most environmentally friendly mean of transportation. It looks like a conventional internal combustion engine is slowly approaching the end of its dominance. But what is next? Electric car still face usual limitations and some car manufacturers believe that there should be an alternative to them. Now Nissan announced a start of the development of a Solid Oxide Fuel-Cell-powered system that runs on bio-ethanol electric power.

This new system would not require any infrastructure improvements, would be cheap to run and would cause no harm to the environment. Image credit: nissannews.com.

This new system would not require any infrastructure improvements, would be cheap to run and would cause no harm to the environment. Image credit: nissannews.com.

This system, which could take advantage of such fuels as ethanol and natural gas, is going to be the first of its kind in the automotive application. You might have heard of fuel cell in a Toyota Mirai, but that car has to be filled up with hydrogen while this new Nissan idea is about making car produce its own hydrogen on-board. In other words, SOFC system would convert bio-ethanol, stored in the vehicle, into hydrogen which would later be used to make electricity to power the car. Because of its promised high efficiency, Nissan said that this system would provide a car with an operational range of more than 600 km.

Of course, the usual advantage of having an electric car that you can quickly fill up at the gas station remains. However, finding bio-ethanol is incredibly easier than finding hydrogen. Therefore, it is a green car, supporting existing infrastructure and providing opportunities for the regional energy production. Bio-ethanol can be produced from sugarcane or corn, making CO2 emissions neutral. There are other advantages as well. Since it is essentially a generator on wheels, this energy can be used, for example, for refrigerated delivery. Running costs would be extremely low too, comparable to ones of a contemporary electric car.

This new project is part of Nissan’s efforts to make the future of automobiles zero-emission and zero-fatality. Nissan is already famous for the most popular electric vehicle in the world Nissan Leaf. Now we have to wait and see how this new idea for the next generation of an automotive powertrain will develop.

So far, it can be said that weight might be an issue, since Toyota Mirai suffers from it too, even though it does not have a reforming device, which is necessary for the SOFC system. However, having in mind long-lasting Nissan’s expertise in green cars and there is a long development process ahead, the finished product is undoubtedly going to be interesting.

Source: Nissan

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