Nissan turns to bio-ethanol to accelerate ‘carbon-neutral’ transport ambition

Japanese car manufacturer Nissan has unveiled the results a ground-breaking research and development (R&D) drive, which will establish a Solid Oxide Fuel-Cell (SOFC)-powered engine system that runs on bio-ethanol electric power.

The new system features an e-Bio Fuel-Cell with an SOFC power generator which utilises the reaction of multiple fuels, including ethanol and natural gas, with oxygen to produce electricity with high efficiency. Generating electricity using bio-ethanol stored in the automobile, the vehicle can reach cruising ranges of more than 600km – similar to gasoline-powered cars.

The bio-ethanol system neutralises CO2 emissions from the growing process of sugarcane, which makes up the bio-fuel, allowing it to have a ‘carbon-neutral’ cycle, with virtually no CO2 increase.

‘Complete synchronicity’

The research and development project promotes greater vehicle efficiency and electrification as part of Nissan’s pursuit of realising a zero-emission society for cars.

Earlier this month, the firm completed the installation of a 4.75MW solar farm in Sunderland – its biggest manufacturing plant in Europe – which along with other renewable sources, will generate enough power to build more than 31,000 cars every year.

Speaking at a launch event in London last month, Nissan Europe’s chairman Paul Willcox announced the firm will develop 100 new vehicle-to-grid (V2G) energy storage units that bring together vehicles, roads and energy networks in “complete synchronicity”. The V2G charging infrastructure is being developed by Italian energy supplier Enel – which Nissan has previously worked with during battery energy storage trials in France.

Mercedez SUV

In related news, Mercedez-Benz has announced it will start selling a plug-in fuel-cell SUV version of its GLC compact crossover starting next year.

The Mercedez GLC F-Cell will have a combined range of about 500km (310 miles), including an all-electric range of about 30 miles and a hydrogen fuel tank that can be refilled in about three minutes. A battery pack at the back of the vehicle can be recharged with a wall plug, in the same way as a normal plugin-in hybrid or electric vehicle (EV).

When it goes on sale next year, Mercedes is expected to price the GLC F-Cell from around $100,000, although most customers are expected to lease the hydrogen-powered SUV.

George Ogleby

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