We're yet to find a car manufacturer that isn't working on some form of alternative powertrain solution. Heck, even Morgan is going hybrid. As a part of its quest for long range electric vehicles, Nissan is developing a solid oxide fuel cell car which turns bio-ethanol into electricity for battery powered motoring.
While the range limit on current electric cars is hovering around 500 km (311 mi), Nissan claims its solid oxide fuel-cell system offers up more than 600 km (373 mi) of driving. That puts it in the same realm as most petrol cars, but with the same silent startup, perky acceleration and linear throttle take up you get from pure EVs.
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According to Nissan, when you run the fuel-cell car on a 55 percent water, 45 percent ethanol mix, running costs are only slightly higher than they would be in a regular EV, and around two-thirds less than you'd pay to run a petrol powered car.
This system also supports existing refueling infrastructure, rather than needing special pressurized tanks and unique valves like most hydrogen fuel-cell cars, or relying on the installation of charging networks.
So, how does it work? Well, the fuel cell uses a reformer to convert bio-ethanol into hydrogen. That hydrogen is then mixed with atmospheric air, and converted into electricity through the fuel cell, providing charge to the battery feeding the motor.
Nissan says the cycle of using bioethanol to power its cars is carbon neutral, with CO2 emissions being neutralized from the growing process of sugarcane making up the bio-fuel. That of course ignores the fossil fuels burned in processing and transporting the biofuel, not to mention the other problems associated with crop-based biofuel production, but that's a story for another day.
At the moment, this technology is under development. It joins the amorphous-silicon battery as a way for Nissan to potentially improve the range and relevance of electric vehicles.
Check out our gallery for some of Nissan's technical explainers on the chemistry of its fuel cell.
Source: NissanView gallery - 6 images