Relying on bio-ethanol to generate electricity, instead of compressed hydrogen gas, Nissan is hoping that its latest powertrain innovation will keep us from relying on complicated new infrastructures.
This isn't your average Nissan NV cargo van.
It's outfitted with Nissan's e-Bio Fuel Cell, which generates electricity using sustainably sourced fuel.
It runs on bio-ethanol, which can be pulled from sugarcane and corn.
That bio-ethanol is placed into a fuel cell, where it reacts with a catalyst to create electricity.
The only byproduct is water -- no emissions here.
This prototype is based on the e-NV200, an all-electric van.
The bio-ethanol fuel cell provides electricity to a 24-kWh battery.
Nissan estimates that its prototype can drive for 373 miles on a single tank of corn juice.
The goal is to create an electric vehicle that uses sustainable fuel but achieves the range of a gas-powered car.
Another benefit of bio-ethanol over hydrogen? It doesn't require a complicated new infrastructure.
Right now, most fuel cells operate on compressed hydrogen gas.
One big issue with using hydrogen is that it requires a whole new, expensive infrastructure.
That means hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are limited to small pockets of the country that have shelled out for hydrogen filling stations.
This ethanol fuel cell, on the other hand, can be filled up much as a normal gas car would.
Nissan even envisions a future where you can run into a shop and buy a bit of bio-ethanol before hitting the road again.
The automaker is starting public tests of its prototype.
It'll soon hit public roads in Brazil.
Both North and South America are great sources of bio-ethanol.
Could corn juice be a more useful fuel than compressed hydrogen gas? We'll find out!