‘Solid Oxide Fuel Cell’ engine is the first of its type, claims Nissan, and can replicate the range of a petrol powered car

Nissan is currently developing a new type of fuel cell engine, which is powered by electricity generated from electrochemically reacting bioethanol and air.

The brand claims that the method of propulsion, which has until now been unexplored by mainstream car manufacturers, allows the generation of electricity with high efficiency. It's capable of powering a car to a similar range to conventionally-fuelled offerings: Nissan quotes more than 600km (373 miles).

Nissan says that when the engine reaches production, it will behave no differently to regular electric vehicles, despite its pioneering nature. This is in terms of noise, acceleration and power delivery. As with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, Nissan’s bioethanol system emits only water.

The engine uses a reformer to source hydrogen from bioethanol fuel, which powers the car through the solid oxide fuel cell. The bioethanol fuel will be sourced from sugarcane; an abundant crop in Asia, North and South America, which means the process of fuel production will produce very little CO2.

The localised nature of the sugar cane, and the high CO2 cost of transporting fuel means that markets close to the equator are the most likely to see the engine in commercial production first, although a Nissan spokesperson revealed that research and development of biomass-sourced bioethanol in areas without plentiful sources, such as Japan, is well underway. Additionally, projects to make ‘home brewed’ bioethanol made from garden waste are also under development.

Nissan hopes that the internal conversion of bioethanol into hydrogen will reduce the need for an extensive re-work of the current refueling infrastructure; a problem which is said to be holding back the progress of conventional hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Although the project is only in the early stages of development Nissan also promises ultra-low running costs akin to those of the current generation of electric vehicles. A short refueling time and other infrastructure benefits, including safer fuel (a 55:45 ethanol-blended water format) are also predicted by the Japanese manufacturer. Brazil and the United States’ current use of biofuels in their fuel infrastructure means that Nissan has high hopes for these countries’ adoption of the technology.

The project, which Nissan is developing alone despite its continued partnership with Renault, currently has no date for commercialisation. However, a Nissan spokesperson said: “the announcement will gather feedback and accelerate development.”

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Comments
2

SJK

14 June 2016
"As with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, Nissan’s bioethanol system emits only water." Not so - ethanol, whether bio or not, contains carbon atoms - its chemical formula is C2H5OH, and the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) proposed by Nissan will, like all SOFCs, put out CO2. The reaction is C2H5OH + 3H2O → 6H2 + 2CO2. It could be argued that as the CO2 was captured by plants in the first place, which are then used to make bioethanol, which is then used in the SOFC, then the CO2 output is neutral - presuming no power is used in producing and transporting the bioethanol - which seems unlikely. Same argument as applies to running ICE's on bioethanol really, although there will be no NOx and particulates from the SOFC.

SJK

14 June 2016
the range may be >600km, but how big is the fuel tank? no actual mpg approximation is being made, and as pointed out by SJK, the emissions claim appear to be being fiddled or misquoted already!! i feel i should point out that i have nothing against new ideas and cleverness

14 June 2016
the range may be >600km, but how big is the fuel tank? no actual mpg approximation is being made, and as pointed out by SJK, the emissions claim appear to be being fiddled or misquoted already!! i feel i should point out that i have nothing against new ideas and cleverness

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