Nissan developing ethanol-powered SOFC vehicle

Last week in Yokohama, Nissan announced that it is developing a solid oxide fuel cell vehicle, which will run on bioethanol. Biofuel powered cars are already commonplace in much of the world, but the difference is that Nissan’s system would transform the liquid ethanol into hydrogen inside the car, using a reformer.

This requires an extra step in the supply chain, and will produce more emissions than using hydrogen directly, but it neatly sidesteps infrastructure problems. Nissan has seen the bottleneck holding back hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is infrastructure. Without a network of available fuelling stations, consumers won’t invest in a hydrogen vehicle. Seeing this, Nissan has opted for a different tack, announcing a solid-oxide fuel cell engine that runs off biofuels.  Ethanol is also safer to store than compressed hydrogen, easing dangers in the supply chain.

Nissan expects to bring the technology to market in fleet vehicles by around 2020.