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Nissan pushes forward with ethanol-based fuel cell development

The technology is now being tested in a working prototype vehicle.

As promised, Nissan's solid-oxide fuel-cell (SOFC) technology has progressed from the laboratory to a prototype vehicle.

The company has modified a e-NV200 van to run on bio-ethanol electric power, demonstrating a unique fuel-cell system that conveniently avoids the need to store or refuel high-pressure hydrogen.

The SOFC powertrain still requires hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity, but the vehicle integrates a miniaturized chemical processing system to extract hydrogen locally while underway. A 30-liter tank holds ethanol or an ethanol-water blend."Due to the easy availability of ethanol and low combustibility of ethanol-blended water, the system is not heavily dependent or restricted by the existing charging infrastructure, making it easy to introduce to the market," the company said in a statement. "In the future, people may only need to stop by small retail stores to buy fuel off the shelf."

The prototype van is said to achieve an estimated driving range of around 373 miles before requiring an ethanol fill-up. The hydrogen extraction system and fuel-cell stack can produce up to 5kW of power, diverted to a 24-kWh battery.

Nissan suggests the technology could be commercialized by the end of the decade.

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