SOFC vehicle, NissanJapan – The OEM announced that it is currently researching and developing a solid-oxide fuel cell (SOFC) system which runs on bioethanol electric power and is claimed to be a world-first for the automotive industry. Nissan says the technology will enable similar driving ranges to those of conventional vehicles, at more than 600km.

The new system consists of an e-bio fuel cell plus an SOFC power generator which uses the reaction between oxygen and multiple fuels such as ethanol and natural gas to produce electricity efficiently. The e-bio fuel cell is fed by hydrogen transformed from fuel via a reformer and atmospheric oxygen; the subsequent electrochemical reaction produces electricity to power the vehicle. The bioethanol fuel is stored onboard.

According to Nissan, the high efficiency of the SOFC power source increases the range while at the same time the vehicle offers the benefits of electric-drive features such as silent operation, a linear start-up and rapid acceleration. The OEM claims that the bioethanol system has a carbon-neutral cycle because the usual CO2 emissions are “neutralised from the growing process of sugarcane making up the bio-fuel”.

Nissan says that, in future, the e-bio fuel cell “will become even more user-friendly”, since ethanol-blended water is easier and safer to handle than most other fuels. These characteristics may encourage the creation of a new infrastructure and therefore market growth. Running costs are predicted to be similar to those of electric vehicles of today.