Nissan has gone all-in on electric power in recent years, both when it comes to cars and the infrastructure needed to keep them going. Unfortunately, range anxiety and charge times mean EVs still have some way to go before they're a viable alternative to internal combustion, which is where fuel cells could hold an advantage. The latest car to test the waters with fuel-cell electric power is the e-NV200, which promises a range of 600 km from its new solid oxide fuel-cell.
Having announced this solid-oxide fuel cell (SOFC) in early June, Nissan is now demonstrating a prototype vehicle powered by the new system in Brazil alongside it's BladeGlider prototype as part of its Intelligent Mobility strategy. Properly realized, it opens the door to electric vehicles with ranges of more than 600 km (373 mi). By way of comparison, the current cap on pure EVs is around 500 km (311 mi) in ideal conditions.
Slotted into the floorpan of an e-NV200 van, the 5-kW solid oxide fuel-cell draws on a 30-liter (8 gal) tank of ethanol-blended water. Using a reformer, it converts this blend into hydrogen, which is mixed with atmospheric air and converted into electricity that is used to charge the car's 24-kWh battery, making for gasoline-aping range with silken electric acceleration.
According to Nissan, doing things this way has a few benefits. Fueling a pure hydrogen car involves pressurized tanks and a locking nozzle, whereas the solid oxide fuel-cell can be fueled using existing infrastructure. Compared to a pure EV, a system like Nissan's also means drivers are able to maintain their existing fueling habits, rather than having to wait long periods of time for the battery to charge.
Nissan also claims that using bioethanol is completely carbon neutral in terms of the carbon cycle because any emissions are neutralized by the growing process of sugarcane and corn from which the bioethanol is mainly sourced. That might be a slightly optimistic way of looking at things, as it ignores any fuel burned when the bioethanol is processed and transported. It also doesn't address the numerous other issues associated with crop-based biofuels.
"The e-Bio Fuel-Cell offers eco-friendly transportation and creates opportunities for regional energy production… all the while supporting the existing infrastructure," says Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. "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."
Nissan will test the fuel cell prototype on Brazilian roads in the coming months and it can be seen in action in the video below.
Source: Nissan UK