Nissan has developed a new Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) that runs on bio-ethanol instead of hydrogen.
Designed for use in future automobiles, the eco-friendly powertrain features an e-Bio Fuel Cell with an SOFC power generator. The latter fuel cell has been designed to work with a variety of fuels including ethanol and natural gas.
The energy generation process is a bit difficult to explain but Nissan says "The e-Bio Fuel Cell generates electricity through the SOFC (power generator) using bio-ethanol stored in the vehicle. The e-Bio Fuel Cell utilizes hydrogen transformed from fuel via a reformer and atmospheric oxygen, with the subsequent electrochemical reaction producing electricity to power the vehicle." In other words, bio-ethanol is converted into hydrogen by the reformer. The hydrogen is then fed to the fuel-cell stack which produces electricity.
Nissan says its fuel cell system has greater power efficiency than traditional hydrogen fuel cells. This will enable future models equipped with the system to have a range similar to gasoline-powered cars - about 373 miles according to Nissan's estimates.
Besides providing additional range, the technology offers a clear advantage over traditional hydrogen fuel cells as bio-ethanol fuels are widely available in Asia, North America, and South America. This effectively eliminates the largest obstacle facing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, namely a lack of hydrogen refueling stations. Furthermore, bio-ethanol is not combustible unlike hydrogen which needs to be stored in an expensive high-pressure tank.
Nissan is targeting 2020 when we might see vehicles with an e-Bio Fuel Cell but noted it expects running costs will be "remarkably low" and on par with today’s electric vehicles.
Gallery: Nissan Solid Oxide Fuel Cell
Nissan announces development of the world’s first SOFC-powered vehicle system that runs on bio-ethanol electric power
YOKOHAMA, Japan (June 14, 2016) – Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. announced today that it is currently researching and developing a Solid Oxide Fuel-Cell (SOFC)-powered system that runs on bio-ethanol electric power. The new system— a world first for automotive use—features an e-Bio Fuel-Cell with an SOFC power generator. SOFC is a fuel cell utilizing the reaction of multiple fuels, including ethanol and natural gas, with oxygen to produce electricity with high efficiency.
About e-Bio Fuel-Cell
The e-Bio Fuel Cell generates electricity through the SOFC (power generator) using bio-ethanol stored in the vehicle. The e-Bio Fuel-Cell utilizes hydrogen transformed from fuel via a reformer and atmospheric oxygen, with the subsequent electrochemical reaction producing electricity to power the vehicle.
Unlike conventional systems, e-Bio Fuel-Cell features SOFC as its power source, affording greater power efficiency to give the vehicle cruising ranges similar to gasoline-powered cars (more than 600km). In addition, the e-Bio Fuel-Cell car’s distinct electric-drive features—including silent drive, linear start-up and brisk acceleration—allow users to enjoy the joys and comfort of a pure electric vehicle (EV).
Fuel-cell systems use chemicals that react with oxygen, generating power without release of harmful byproducts. Bio-ethanol fuels, including those sourced from sugarcane and corn, are widely available in countries in North and South America, and Asia. The e-Bio Fuel-Cell, using bio-ethanol, can offer eco-friendly transportation and create opportunities in regional energy production, while supporting existing infrastructure.
When power is generated in a fuel-cell system, CO2 is usually emitted., With the bio-ethanol system, CO2 emissions are neutralized from the growing process of sugarcane making up the bio-fuel, allowing it to have a “Carbon-Neutral Cycle,” with nearly no CO2 increase whatsoever.
The Future of e-Bio Fuel-Cell
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. As this will remove limits on creating a totally new infrastructure, it has great potential for market growth.
Running costs will be remarkably low—on par with today’s EVs, ultimately benefitting the public as well as businesses, because the e-Bio Fuel-Cell is an ideal fit for wider customer needs because of the short refueling time and ample power supply that can support a range of services such as refrigerated delivery.
The Quest for a Zero-Emission Society
In pursuit of realizing a zero-emission and zero-fatality society for cars, Nissan continues to promote vehicle intelligence and electrification. Nissan’s brand promise of “Innovation That Excites” is delivered with “Nissan Intelligent Mobility”, which focuses on how cars are powered, driven and integrated into society through a more enjoyable driving experience.
The e-Bio Fuel-Cell will realize the concept of “Nissan Intelligent Power,” promoting greater efficiency and electrification of cars and the joys of driving, alongside battery EVs, such as the “Nissan Leaf”, “Nissan e-NV200,” and “e-Power,” which is equipped with an engine housing an exclusive large-capacity motor and power generator.
Nissan will continue to provide value to its customers by incorporating systems that enable the extraction of electric power from various fuels, while addressing the infrastructure issues tied to energy supply in every region of the world.