Nissan CEO Discusses Fuel Cell Cars

2 years ago by Mark Kane 54

Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn

Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn

2016 Nissan LEAF

2016 Nissan LEAF

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has never distanced himself from hydrogen fuel cells as one of the solutions for zero emissions vehicles.

But many of us have doubts in a hydrogen future, and would like to see Nissan as a battery-electric only warrior, maybe with just some plug-in hybrids added as well, but that apparently isn’t going to happen and some FCV vehicles will ultimately appear.

Nissan is currently developing FCVs with Daimler, and ultimately intends to introduce them (without any hurry) around 2020.

This lack of haste is the result of already available all-electric cars, while – according to Ghosn – other companies without EVs need to hurry up with FCVs as their first zero emissions solution (think Toyota and Honda).

The other reason Nissan is in no rush is the refueling infrastructure problem, much worse than in the case of the charging infrastructure (which has its own growth troubles). Obviously, base charging infrastructure is already in all homes already, and is the primary source of energy for EVs. The same is not true for FCVs.

“We are not in a hurry. Because we already have a zero-emissions solution. We’re not on the same time frame because we’re not in the same situation”

“The only question about fuel cells is, we just think it is too early,”

“We’re facing already a problem with the charging infrastructure in electric cars. You can imagine the problem we’re going to have with fuel cells,”

“I understand that those who don’t develop electric cars are more tempted by going fuel cell, and they are in a hurry to put them on the market.”

Other Japanese companies like Toyota and Honda believe in hydrogen, but even their sales expectation by 2020 indicate that FCVs are in a very early stage.

Because of high cost of FCV developments, Nissan is partnering with Daimler, while Toyota picks up BMW and Honda chose GM.

Our thought is that all-electric car sales will continue to improve drastically over time with new, longer range models arriving all the time; so Nissan will likely stay mainly engaged in BEVs, and treat FCVs just as a pilot project.

Source: Automotive News

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54 responses to "Nissan CEO Discusses Fuel Cell Cars"

  1. Jeff Songster says:

    As the new EVs from Nissan start to arrive… with more and more range over the next couple years at the economical end of the market… The practicality of fuel cells for passenger cars seems less and less… my guess is that Mr Ghosn’s positioning on this is just that… positioning. Keep Toyota and Honda wasting their time on fool cells while Nissan has a strategic alliance with Daimler just in case the fuel cell tech ever actually matters. So far the best uses I’ve seen for fuel cells is fleets of heavy trucks and buses.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      “…my guess is that Mr Ghosn’s positioning on this is just that… positioning.”

      Yes, I think it’s likely he’s just being polite, and that Nissan would like to put off developing a “fool cell” car until after the Japanese government grudgingly admits that trying to develop the “hydrogen highway” is not a practical plan. Businessmen rarely come out and call their competitors fools, even when they think they are. It’s just not good for business. The company you insult today is one you may have to do business with tomorrow.

  2. Ambulator says:

    There seems to be a meme going around that batteries are ok for small cars, but large cars and trucks need fuel cells. I think this is wrong, as shown by BYD in buses, but it’s going to take some time to change people’s minds.

    1. John says:

      I share the opinion that fuel cells kind of do make sense for large, long-haul trucks. Busses have the advantage of frequent stops over short distances. For the other 90% of transport, go EV!

      1. BraveLilToaster says:

        Yes, until you realize that you’ll be paying for hydrogen at a rate several times as high as diesel.

        Every time the cost of diesel goes up around here, you see news segments about how truckers can’t make money. So if there were ever a price-sensitive market, this is it.

        1. Brian says:

          Frankly, we should have fewer trucks on the roads and ship more things by rail. It’s significantly cleaner and would reduce congestion on the roads.

          1. liberty says:

            Trucking is very competitive with rail, simply because of the slowness of rail, and lask of it going the last mile.

            Mixed mode Seems to work well, with trains on the runs they do well, then trucks picking it up.

            1. Priusmaniac says:

              It would be interesting to create a roll-on roll-off system like the Shuttle between France and the UK but as an above ground line in an electric High Speed Train version at 300 Km/h. Going from New-York to Chicago in 6 hours is impossible by road. That would slash transit time, save on working hours,, save on diesel emissions and drastically send fright into the 21 century.

          2. Have you ever tried shipping something by rail? I work in an industry that uses rail sometimes, and everyone shares the same opinion. You use rail only when the economics force you to. The railroads have geographic monopolies, and thus are terrible to deal with from a service standpoint. I know plenty of people who have decided to pay more to truck their goods just to avoid the hassle of dealing with the railroad. Ever heard the term “you’re being railroaded?” That comes from the historically poor customer service and attitude provided by railroads.

            1. Knut Erik Ballestad says:

              The solution to dissolving the railroad monopolies is simply to separate the operations of the railroad itself from the cargo-haulers using it!

              In many European countries this separation has been done successfully, allowing several freight companies to compete using the same railroads.

            2. RedLeafBlueLeaf says:

              Modern class 1 railroads in the US are generally interested in only very big customers. Single unit trains like coal, grain, the UPS trains, auto racks, and so on. They give those priority and optimize their networks around them.

              If you are shipping only a carload or two you’re at the bottom of the priority queue and can wait days for the cars to get picked up, moved, and dropped off. If you’re in an industry that doesn’t need speed (say, lumber) just needs to keep a steady supply going then the slowness is acceptable.

              Where there has been some progress is in shippers who aggregate many customers and then act as a single customer to the railroad. In effect, this is what UPS does – and the famed UPS coast-to-coast train gets first priority wherever it goes because it is so profitable for the railroads while also saving UPS huge amounts of money that would otherwise be spent on independent truck or air shipments.

              The other common method is to ship via a container company. Pack your things in a container and let the company figure out how to get the railroad to route it correctly – the container is intermodal so can be trucked short distances to and from the intermodal terminal or put on a cargo ship.

              A third way this works for some industries is to create (or, more usually, revive) and industrial park that is served by rail and have a small local company take over the local tracks and the rails to the mainline. The small company solves two of the problems in that they can assure fast pickup and fast drop off – but you’ll probably still won’t see speed once it gets to the mainline because the number of cars isn’t that large. See “Progressive Rail” for an example.

        2. Scott Franco says:

          Yes, until you realize that you’ll be paying for hydrogen at a rate several times as high as diesel.”

          Both trucks and trains already have a solution that FCVs would complete with: CNG powered trucks and trains, and entirely done to cut the costs of Diesel, with emissions as a secondary effect.

          The stupidity of reforming NG for more expensive FCVs vs just using same NG for a CNG vehicle is stunning. The net emissions are equal, the cost much greater. This kind of stupidity should be painful.

          1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

            Scott Franco said:

            “The stupidity of reforming NG for more expensive FCVs vs just using same NG for a CNG vehicle is stunning.”

            Thank you, sir. That deserves repeating.

            1. Phr3d says:

              The brilliance of creating H2 from wasted electricity generation vs continuing to allow it to uselessly ground out is stunning.

              guessing no repeat of that one..

              it’s not impossible to imagine a time where H2 creation does Not need NG -as in its present, explorative form- if you are willing to get past your self-imposed limit of information.
              Please tell me, Where we are going to put all of the batteries to power everything, ok? Much talk about kWh, No talk about kWh/liter. Batteries are huge and heavy and That ‘law of physics’ never seems to enter your conversational epithets. If not H2, then What? cuz it Ain’t Batteries, and you Must know that by now.

              1. Fail Cells says:

                Batteries are not huge an heavy. See Tesla from some reality. Batteries, like solar will be distributed. Sorry, you have zero clue what you are talking about.

  3. Mike616 says:

    Why does he have to be “nice” about the hydrogen boondoggle? The Japanese Government bribed by the Japanese Fracking industry?

    1. sven says:

      Bribed by the Japenese fracking industry? Really? Japan has like one fracked well and it’s a shale oil well, not a natural gas well.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Yes, really. You can tell just by looking at a list of names that there are at least four natural gas suppliers, and three petroleum companies (which presumably also sell natural gas) among the supporters of Japan’s “hydrogen highway”.

        This is a matter of public record; it’s fact, sven. You can deny it all you want, in being an apologist for hydrogen fuel, but you can’t change facts.

        1. Bret says:

          This is also my opinion of the Hydrogen movement. As more cars are becoming electrified, less gas will be sold. Oil companies will fight to supply the fuel of the future. BEVs with solar panels don’t offer any profit potential for them, but hydrogen for a fuel cell does.

          Charging at home, instead of going to a gas / hydrogen station, is one of the biggest benefits of owning a BEV.

        2. sven says:

          Reading comprehension, Pushmi-Pullyu, reading comprehension. I questioned a conspiracy by “Japan’s fracking industry.” What fracking industry? How many wells have the 4 utilities and 3 oil companies fracked in Japan. Do you have any facts on widespread fracking for natural gas going on in Japan? I don’t think so.

          1. Djoni says:

            C’mon Sven!
            They or don’t have any Fraking in Japan doesn’t mean a thing.
            They might have some anywhere in the world and just be happy to supply Japan with it.
            Don’t you heard about global economy?

          2. SparkEV says:

            Actually, it’s not the Japanese fracking industry, it’s all the other oil/gas producers that Japan has to worry about. If they get pissed off and decide to increase cost or limit quantity for Japan or some such, Japan could be in serious trouble. Japan, in effect, has to please the global gas producing cartel.

            1. SparkEV says:

              Wait. Did I just agree with Djoni? I think hell just froze over!

          3. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

            sven said:

            “Reading comprehension, Pushmi-Pullyu, reading comprehension. I questioned a conspiracy by ‘Japan’s fracking industry.’ What fracking industry?”

            If you want to declare a point-scoring victory in a semantic argument, sven, be my guest. Technically, I agree that the multiple natural gas importers in Japan should not be described as a “Japanese fracking industry”.

            But the important issue here is whether or not the Japanese “hydrogen highway” is something that can ever be practical, or if it’s just a boondoggle which is a result of lobbying the Japanese government (that’s a polite way of saying bribery) by the natural gas industry.

            The important issue is not whether or not that natural gas is from domestic sources, or imported.

        3. Three Electrics says:


          Germany will have 400 H2 stations in the next several years; I wonder what conspiracy theory suffices to cover them. I don’t find it at all surprising that companies that deal in energy, gas, and fueling stations want to deal in hydrogen–another gas, and energy transport, that needs fueling stations–and resuse existing pipelines to do so.

          1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

            Three Electrics said:

            “Germany will have 400 H2 stations in the next several years; I wonder what conspiracy theory suffices to cover them.”

            I don’t need any “conspiracy theory” to figure out that your persistent advocacy for hydrogen fuel means your salary is being paid for by the frackogen industry.

            The lobbying by Big Oil & Gas in support of the “hydrogen economy” isn’t a conspiracy at all. It’s a matter of public record. No conspiracy theorist nutjobs need apply.

            “I don’t find it at all surprising that companies that deal in energy, gas, and fueling stations want to deal in hydrogen–another gas”

            Glad you agree. But then, you’re not crazy; you’re just posting propaganda because you are promoting goals of the company that pays your salary.

            “…and resuse existing pipelines to do so.”

            Nope, that’s factually incorrect. Pure hydrogen gas cannot be transported via existing pipelines, and it would be stupid to try to build a pipeline to do so. Over a long distance, with that many seals, the loss from hydrogen — which leaks (slowly or rapidly) past any possible seal — would cause losses so great that it wouldn’t be worth constructing such a pipeline.

            What they’re doing in Germany is blending up to 15% hydrogen into the natural gas which is being transported via existing pipelines. Of course, once the hydrogen is blended in, you can’t just extract it at the other end. What they’re doing is just using hydrogen to expand the volume of natural gas a bit.

            1. Phr3d says:

              “I don’t need any “conspiracy theory” to figure out that your persistent advocacy for hydrogen fuel means your salary is being paid for by the frackogen industry.”

              congrats, a new low, but so constantly chasing them Must make it easier

              Jay, $200?

  4. MarkSTJ says:

    Fuel cells as a range extender makes some sense. You only need them for long trips or emergencies. You do not need a complete 2nd drive system. It can be just a backup electric source. It can be small and less expensive.

    1. Sublime says:

      I agree as a clean sheet engineering solution. The problem is that HFCs are still expensive and there’s no infrastructure. Given the gasoline infrastructure in place, I think a small solid oxide fuel cell that could run on gasoline would be better.

    2. Lad says:

      No, FSVs were invented by the oil companies to counter the threat that EVs present to their sales and profits. Hydrogen is created by reforming natural gas and other fossil fuels; it will be distributed by gas stations…it is ‘Gasoline 2,’ designed to keep oil companies in control of energy.

      It’s a terrible idea for consumers:

      1. Scott Franco says:

        The key is the idea that FCVs are “clean energy”. Every time someone spouts off that FCVs are zero emissions remind them that they are NOT, but simply move emissions to the reformulation station.

        1. Djoni says:

          This is where Ghosn make a mistake if he say that FCV are also a zero emission solution.
          Or he promote using biomethane, but that would still be less efficient than burning it in an adapted ICE.
          So I don’t get his point there.

        2. Knut Erik Ballestad says:

          That is only *partly* correct. It is also very possible to create Hydrogen using electrolysis of water – with ~85% energy efficiency.

          This would mean a ‘well-to-wheel’ efficiency of 60+% – and no pollution.

          If we compare this to BEV’s, we would get 85-90% ‘well-to-wheel’ energy efficiency – also with no pollution.

          So Hydrogen may have it’s use cases in our future – no need to combat Hydrogen as energy storage in vehicle.

          – A good solution(Hydrogen) is not the enemy of the best solution(batteries)!
          The *real* enemy is the technologies that have no chance of being emission-free(gas+diesel+CNG)

          1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

            Knut Erik Ballestad said:

            “That is only *partly* correct. It is also very possible to create Hydrogen using electrolysis of water – with ~85% energy efficiency.

            “This would mean a ‘well-to-wheel’ efficiency of 60+% – and no pollution.”

            That is, as they say, “not even wrong”. Even if it was true that you could generate hydrogen in quantity at 85% efficiency — and it’s not, the actual losses in industrial scale operations are about 30% — that still ignores the fact that most of the energy losses, most of the inefficiency, comes after the hydrogen is generated.

            Losses come in compressing, storing, moving, re-storing, re-compressing, and dispensing the hydrogen fuel. They also come from the fact that fool cell cars use cryogenic cooling for storage, and that requires an ongoing use of energy. That results in a great deal of loss, of inefficiency, even after the fuel gets into the car.

            Note how hydrogen advocates are desperate to get us to forget all of that. Here are some “inconvenient facts” they’d like us to ignore:

            We lose some more during storage because hydrogen boils off above -253°C, so it’s very difficult to keep it from escaping its container. In vehicles, about 3% to 4% of the hydrogen boils off every day. And at least 10% of the hydrogen will boil off during delivery and storage.


    3. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      MarkSTJ said:

      “Fuel cells as a range extender makes some sense. You only need them for long trips or emergencies. You do not need a complete 2nd drive system. It can be just a backup electric source.”

      It only “makes some sense” until you actually need to fill up the hydrogen fuel tank. Then you run into the same problems which make “fool cell” cars impractical.

      Using a wholly impractical fuel less often doesn’t make that fuel any less impractical.

    4. mo says:

      That…is a really good idea. I can’t believe I haven’t seen someone post it earlier. Fuel cell cars already use hydrogen to charge a battery, so a small tank would be perfect. And you already have a design like the Volt to base it off of, but w/o the engine. All you need is a larger battery and you could replace the ICE Volt engine with actually a moderately sized H2 tank. Also this would take care of the scarce FCell stations as refuels would be few and far between.

      1. Mo, did you know that Chevy already had a Fuel Cell Powered Volt in the planning stages – back in 2009? I saw it here in Toronto, Ontario – at a GM Sponsored Event! The Volt 1 had a 50 kW Gas Generator, while the Fuel Cell in the cut-away example I saw – was an 80 kW Stack! The ideas was to make the ~16 kW T-Shaped pack smaller (by cutting off the head of the ‘T’ and putting in an H2 Tank in the back seat space where there used to be that part of the Battery, leave the Center Hump part of the Battery, and take out the Gas Engine replacing it with the Fuel Cell and it’s Accessories!

        Since that time GM has made 100 FCV SUV’s here in Oshawa, and shipped them to NY State for Testing! I have not heard much more from GM on FCV’s since then!

  5. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    It’s good that selling the Leaf makes Nissan more resistant to the political pressure which apparently is the strongest factor forcing other Japanese auto makers, most notably Toyota and Honda, to throw money down a rathole on “fool cell” cars.

    I find it more strange that Hyundai is also producing one, since they’re based in South Korea, and furthermore they’re not even selling any cars in Japan.

    1. Priusmaniac says:

      This can probably be explained if the political pressure finds its source from US oil companies instead of local origin. Both Japan and Korea are able to supply ev to the US market. The US oil companies know that it would mean a decline in their gasoline sales, so the lobby the local politicians to avoid ev production at all cost and push to make FEV instead even though these are clearly fool cells.
      So, once more the evil is not abroad but amongst us unfortunately.
      In a sense China not going the FEV route kind of support this theory because US oilies are simply no match against the Chinese government.

  6. ffbj says:

    There seems to be a subtle, perhaps not so subtle point, he is making in regard to why manufacturers are putting out FCV. Just for compliance and to have a no emission vehicle.
    I think he hit the nail on the head there as in why make something inferior, to an bev, if you don’t have too?
    Also he mentions the obvious lack of infrastructure, the elephant in the room, and FCV is a white elephant to begin with.
    A small herd of elephants, or the problems facing FCV are elephantine. Ungowa!

  7. notting says:

    On the Renault website (at least .de) on the Megane IV page they say now for months:

    * Der kombinierte Gesamtverbrauch von 2,9 l/100 km und die kombinierten CO2-Emissionen von 76 g/km (vorläufige Werte) gelten für die Mégane Motorisierung ENERGY dCi 110 Hydrid Assist, die ab Anfang 2017 erhältlich ist.

    As you maybe can see without understanding any German, it’s about fuel consumption (of the Megane IV).
    And now read -> “In chemistry, a Hydride is the anion of hydrogen, H−, or, more commonly, it is a compound in which one or more hydrogen centres have nucleophilic, reducing, or basic properties.”

    -> It’s about hydrogen. For a typing mistake, it’s too long on that page, IMHO.


    1. MikeM says:

      Er. . . .Are you sure of that? It looks to me like a typo for”Hybrid Assist”.

  8. Scott Franco says:

    “The only question about fuel cells is, we just think it is too early,”

    No, its too late.

    1. MikeM says:

      I’m comfortable with it being always 10 years too early for the rest of my life.

  9. jmac says:

    “Currently, Japan is one of the largest net importers of crude oil, the second largest importer of coal and the largest global importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Since Japan imports almost its all of its fossil fuel requirement, it has lost its trade surplus and has become a nation with a rising trade deficit.”

    Consequently, Japan has long considered supplying itself with natural gas derived from the extensive deposits of methane hydrates found in Japanese territorial waters.

    The least expensive path for hydrogen production is reformed natural gas (methane). This might have something to do with why Japan is pushing the h2 hydrogen economy. That and the fact that much of the Japan’s electrical generating capacity was shut down by Fukishima.

    1. SparkEV says:

      When you compare combined cycle natural gas electric generators, hydrogen from natual gas is not the cheapest. If you consider hydrogen distribution from central reforming location, it gets worse. If you consider raw nat gas (methane) distribution and local hydrogen reformers, it could get far, far worse.

  10. SJC says:

    FCHEV has a smaller fuel cell and more batteries. Add a liquid fuel reformer so you don’t have to plug it in.

  11. SparkEV says:

    Wow, what a contrast between CEO. On one hand, we have Sergio biatching about EV and poor little Fiat is in trouble and try to dupe other carmakers to bail him out. On the other, we have Carlos, the forward thinking CEO who prepared his company for the future. Give that man the medal.

    When history is told in 100 years, it will be about Carlos and Elon.

    1. jmac says:

      The Gaijin Who Saved Nissan

      Spark EV. I couldn’t agree with you more about Carlos Ghosn. Here’s a link to an interesting 2005 review of a book entitled “The Gaijin Who Saved Nissan.” In 1999 Nissan was in tatters and nearly finished when Ghosn took over. The rest is amazing history.

      At the end of the Bloomberg book review, the author makes the understatement of the century, by suggesting that Ghosn might be “someone to watch in the future……”

      1. SparkEV says:

        Hmm. The more I read about Ghosn, the more I think he’ll be the bigger star of early 21st century vehicles. History will record Henry Ford of 20th century, and Carlos Ghosn of 21st century.

  12. Djoni says:

    And next, let’s welcome Sergio Marchione…

    Too late, empty house!

  13. Bob says:

    Ghosn will flat down Toyota 😉