Nissan Bets on Plant-Based Ethanol for Fuel-Cell Vehicles

Nissan says it is developing fuel-cell technology that can power cars using plant-based ethanol, a first for the auto industry, and hopes to launch the system in time for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics.

Japan’s number-two automaker said its experimental technology would let vehicles drive more than 600 kilometres (375 miles) on a single fill, similar to gasoline-powered cars.
Fuel cells work by combining hydrogen and oxygen in an electro chemical reaction, which produces electricity.

In a statement Tuesday, Nissan said it would use bio-ethanol, which comes from crops like sugarcane and corn, as a hydrogen source as it broadens a green-car strategy that has largely focused on electric vehicles.

Nissan said the system would be cheaper than rival offerings because it avoids the huge cost of setting up filling stations and would not require bulky hydrogen tanks to be stored on board.
In 2014, Toyota started selling the world’s first mass market fuel-cell car in Japan, the four-door Mirai, while Honda has launched its rival Clarity Fuel-Cell vehicle.

Nissan said its technology would first be made available to firms and local governments by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Games, before any wider commercial use.

Fuel-cell vehicles emit only water from their exhaust pipe, making them the Holy Grail for a car industry increasingly shifting focus to green solutions.

But limited range and lack of refueling stations have hampered development of fuel-cell and all-electric cars.