Japanese car-maker Nissan is developing the world’s first solid oxide fuel-cell propulsion system for automobiles that uses bioethanol to generate electricity to power vehicles.
The solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) combined with an e-Bio Fuel-Cell uses multiple fuels including ethanol and natural gas that react with oxygen to produce electricity.
The system, which utilises bioethanol stored in the vehicle, provides a driving range of 600km - equivalent to a conventional gasoline-powered car. Similarly to a conventional electric or fuel-cell powered car, the technology would be perfectly quiet and enable brisk acceleration, Nissan said.
Even though the vehicle emits CO2, the emissions are neutralised in the process of growing biomass to produce the bioethanol, resulting in a neutral carbon footprint.
Nissan envisions the vehicles could use bioethanol made from sugarcane and corn, which could be sourced from North and South America.
Sugar-cane and corn-growing regions could economically expand if the technology became widespread with no extreme requirements for new infrastructure, which is needed to handle hydrogen for other types of fuel-cell powered cars.
In future, the e-Bio Fuel-Cell could run on ethanol-blended water, which is very easy and safe to handle.
Nissan said that running costs of such a car would be extremely low, about the same as those of today’s electric vehicles. Unlike electric vehicles, it takes a very short time to refuel the solid oxide fuel cell-powered car, which could be a major advantage.
Nissan is one of the global leaders in the electric car market. Its all-electric Nissan Leaf, launched in December 2010 is the world’s all-time best selling highway-capable plug-in electric car with over 200,000 units sold since its introduction.