Nissan has kicked off development of a new bio-ethanol fuel-cell to power electric vehicles, a technology the car maker is claiming as a world-first the automotive industry.
Using the reaction of oxygen with multiple fuel types – including ethanol and natural gas – Nissan says its e-Bio Fuel-Cell will allow a similar range to conventional petrol-powered cars of around 600 kilometres, while producing no more than water vapour and offering the silent driving experience of a pure electric vehicle (EV).
The system generates electricity through a Solid Oxide Fuel-Cell (SOFC) system that uses bio-ethanol stored in the vehicle’s fuel tank. By combining the hydrogen transformed from bio-fuel via a reformer with atmospheric oxygen, the subsequent electromechanical reaction produces electricity, which then powers the vehicle.
Like conventional battery-powered electric vehicles, the e-Bio Fuel-Cell provides CO2-free motoring, but while also using a clean, renewable energy source – in contrast to EVs where, in some countries like Australia, may rely on coal-sourced power.
Nissan’s e-Bio Fuel-Cell differs from more conventional hydrogen fuel-cell systems as it is able to utilise the existing bio-ethanol fuel infrastructure already supported in various countries around the world – negating the need to install hydrogen fuel stations.
Bio-ethanol fuels rely on sugarcane and corn, which means this system could be a viable option for Australia, considering our large plantations of the crops. Nissan hopes its new fuel-cell system will be implemented in other regions that grow large amounts of sugarcane and corn such as North America, South America and Asia.
The fuel required for bio-ethanol fuel-cells is also much safer to handle than most other fuels including fossil fuels and hydrogen, another advantage of the new method.
Nissan claims that running costs for bio-ethanol fuel-cells will be “remarkably low”, while offering short refuelling times and an ample supply of power sources that can support a range of services including refrigerated delivery.
The e-Bio Fuel-Cell adds to the manufacturer’s concept of “Nissan Intelligent Power”, which promotes greater efficiency and electrification of cars while maintaining the joys of driving.
While this system is still only in development, it provides yet another alternative to conventional fossil-fuelled engines, in a time where there is a greater need to reduce emissions and increase our use of renewable energy sources.