YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Nissan Motor Co. has developed a new kind of fuel cell technology it says is safer, cheaper and more user-friendly than existing systems from rivals with the aim of commercializing it around 2020.
Nissan's new approach: The system uses an onboard tank of ethanol instead of pressurized hydrogen.
Dubbed an e-bio fuel cell, the design combats a common hurdle to deploying traditional hydrogen fuel cell vehicles: the lack of a hydrogen fueling infrastructure.
Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has said repeatedly that although hydrogen fuel cells are an attractive alternative-fuel solution, the lack of fueling stations, and the expense of building them, makes the technology impractical.
Nissan's new solution uses bio-ethanol, derived from renewable crops such as corn or sugar cane, and banks on the fact that an ethanol refueling infrastructure already largely exists.
Nissan expects to bring the technology to market in fleet vehicles by around 2020.
"By using this fuel, it can have wider application," Executive Vice President Hideyuki Sakamoto said Tuesday, June 14, while announcing the development. "We do not require a hydrogen infrastructure. That is the biggest advantage, along with better safety."