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Nissan to develop world first ethanol-powered electric car motor

Diagram of the e-Bio Fuel-Cell technology
Diagram of the e-Bio Fuel-Cell technology

Japanese car giant Nissan Motor Co. is researching and developing what it calls 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.

The e-Bio Fuel Cell generates electricity through the SOFC (power generator) using bio-ethanol stored in the vehicle.

It utilises 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 petrol-powered cars (more than 600km).

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, but with the bio-ethanol system CO2 emissions are neutralised from the growing process of sugarcane making up the bio-fuel, allowing it to have a carbon neutral lifecycle with nearly no CO2 increase whatsoever, Nissan says.

In the future, the company aims to make the e-Bio Fuel-Cell even more user-friendly by making use of ethanol-blended water, which is easier and safer to handle than most other fuels.

Running costs of the system are projected to be low, on par with today’s electric vehicles, and the e-Bio Fuel-Cell a short refuelling time and an ample power supply that can support a range of services such as refrigerated delivery.

Diagram of the e-Bio Fuel-Cell technology