SAN FRANCISCO -- Nissan Motor Co. plans to introduce its first fuel cell vehicle to the United States within three years.
The company's fuel cell fleet consists of three Nissan X-Trails, an entry-level SUV. Nissan began leasing the vehicles to businesses in Japan in March. The vehicles also will be offered in small numbers to U.S. fleet customers.
Yutaka Nagasaka, manager of Nissan's Fuel Cell Vehicle Engineering Department, says the company is testing fuel cell technology in Japan and the United States. But, like those of most other automakers, Nissan's fuel cell vehicles cannot start below the freezing temperature of water.
Fuel cells convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity in a stack of membranes. They emit only water as exhaust.
In February, Honda Motor Co. became the first automaker to announce that its fuel cell stack can start below the freezing temperature of water.
Nagasaka said Nissan's current stack lasts fewer than five years. He said Nissan is working with United Technologies Corp. in Hartford, Conn., to improve the stack.
"In addition to temperature changes, we are also testing performance and durability," Nagasaka said.
He said the first fuel cell vehicle in the United States would be an SUV because SUVs have more space for the stack. He said the company also plans to introduce the technology in cars.