Nissan unveils world’s first bio-ethanol electric vehicle and zero-emission sports car

Low-emission vehicle specialist Nissan has unveiled the world's first fuel-cell powered vehicle that runs on bio-ethanol power, which also has an unprecedented cruising range of more than 600km, as well as a new sports car model.

The Solid Oxide Fuel-Cell (SOFC) runs on 100% ethanol, which is then used to charge a 24kWh battery to create the 600km driving range. In comparison, the new 30kWh battery for Nissan’s flagship Leaf electric vehicle (EV), has a 250km range on a single charge.

Nissan president Carlos Ghosn said: “The e-Bio Fuel-Cell offers eco-friendly transportation and creates opportunities for regional energy production, all the while supporting the existing infrastructure. In the future, the e-Bio Fuel-Cell will become even more user-friendly. Ethanol-blended water is easier and safer to handle than most other fuels. Without the need to create new infrastructure, it has great potential to drive market growth.”

The prototype is being tested in Brazil on public roads and provides a carbon-neutral means of transport. The bio-ethanol fuel is sourced mainly from sugarcane and corn, which is widely available in South America, cutting down on fuel transportation costs and emissions.

The process of making the fuel, which is low in combustibility, means that the prototype is not heavily restricted or dependant on existing charging infrastructure. Nissan has claimed that owners of the vehicle would be able to purchase the fuel from retail outlets and buy “fuel off the shelf”.

Nissan’s use of bio-ethanol could soon end up having ramifications in the UK. If the concept model is deployed in the nation, it could highlight the use of sustainable bio-fuel, an ideate that the Renewable Energy Association (REA) is keen to highlight.

Despite mass concerns over the use of biodiesel, the REA had previously revealed that the UK’s importation and consumption of palm oil-based biodiesel for use as a feedstock for vehicles still stands at ‘zero’ for 2015/16.

Figures released today have reiterated this commitment, with UK Department of Transport data on Year8 of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation revealing that no palm oil has been used in renewable biodiesel.


While Nissan trials the new bio-ethanol prototypes in Brazil, which are e-NV200 models, the country will also welcome Nissan’s futuristic BladeGlider vehicles. The “revolutionary” sports car design is a zero-emission, high-performance electric vehicle that can reach a top speed of 190km/h.

Able to reach 0-100km/h in less than five seconds, the near-silent BladeGlider uses advanced display systems to highlight current speed, battery charge and regeneration modes. The car is also fitted with rear-view cameras and its “arrowhead formation” improves the aerodynamic efficiency of the vehicle.

Two 130kW electric motors power the three-seater vehicle, with power supplied from a 220kW lithium-ion battery. The car is also fitted with a bespoke cooling system for both the battery and the motors.

Currently, two BladeGliders are in Rio de Janeiro. One is on static display in the city, while the other is being used to offer “dynamic rides” to media and VIP. The display in Rio is of significance not only because of the question marks over the Rio Olympics’ sustainability credentials, but also because the model was only revealed as a concept in 2013.

Sharing economy

Nissan has also revealed that it is conducting a series of real-world trials to examine future mobility scenarios such as the sharing economy. The carmaker’s “Living Labs” research is teaming with San Francisco-based Scoot networks to trial the initiative.

The Living Labs concept is studying autonomous driving trends and how these will impact on vehicle ownership structures. In line with this, Nissan is bringing 10 New Mobility Concepts such as small motorcycles and vehicles under a new renting app.

Through the US-based pilot, Nissan will gather data on how people living in urban environments will interact with a multitude of short distance trip choices and what role electric vehicles can play in this change in behaviour.

Battle of the batteries

As part of the future concept development, Nissan is expanding its electrically-orientated innovation drive to focus on energy storage. Earlier this year, the carmaker announced it was “turning science fiction into science fact” with a groundbreaking new scheme that will allow consumers to sell energy stored by Nissan Leaf cars back to the National Grid.

While Nissan will continue to work on new battery types, the competitiveness of the EV market in regards to battery range has seen Nissan turn to energy storage in order maintain its status as a pioneer.

Nissan’s focus on energy storage systems has paved the way for rival EV maker Tesla to steel a march on EV battery production. As well as the Model S leapfrogging the Leaf as the most popular choice for new EVs, Tesla has also claimed that its new Gigafactory will eventually drive down battery production costs by 30%.

Matt Mace

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