Nissan doesn't limit its research to battery-electric cars. In fact, it actively explores fuel cell tech too.
The Japanese company recently entered a partnership with Ceres Power, the UK-based developer of the SteelCell - a low-cost Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) technology for operation with a variety of high-efficiency fuel types (including biofuels), which could be used as range-extender in plug-in vehicles.
"Why is our SteelCell® Unique?
It’s the unique chemistry of our people and our technology that differentiates the SteelCell®. With sixteen years of intelligent investment in research and development, it is no coincidence that Ceres Power’s platform is attracting the attention of the biggest and brightest minds in the energy sector.
With the potential to be the most cost-effective and robust fuel cell technology, the SteelCell® offers exceptional efficiency and unrivalled reliability. As a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC), the SteelCell® can use conventional fuels like mains natural gas from the existing infrastructure and can make an immediate improvement to energy costs, CO2 emissions and energy security for businesses, homes and vehicles."
Nissan already offers gasoline-electric series hybrids e-POWER in Japan (non-rechargeable) and having a fuel-cell version would be just another powertrain option.
Under the new project, Ceres Power will receive £7 million ($9.1 million) for the developments. Only time will tell whether it will result in a new REx for BEVs or new series-hybrids.
"Ceres Power and The Welding Institute ("TWI") have been awarded a total of £8m UK government funding through the Advanced Propulsion Centre ("APC") for this project.
• Nissan, Ceres Power and TWI to enter into a new partnership to further develop fuel cell technology for EV application
• Ceres Power will receive £7 million funding and TWI will receive £1 million funding from APC as part of an overall £19 million programme over c. 3 years
• New partnership builds on the successful Joint Development with Nissan over the past 2 years and sees Ceres Power accelerating commercialisation of its SteelCell® fuel cell technology in automotive markets
• This comes soon after Ceres Power's recent announcement of a strategic partnership with China's Weichai Power to develop its technology for China's fast-growing electric powered bus market
After a successful two-year Innovate UK funded development programme (EVRE - Electric Vehicle Range Extender), this project is the natural next step towards increased technology and manufacturing readiness for mass production of Ceres Power's SteelCell® for automotive applications.
This project will involve the design, build, test and demonstration of a compact, robust, UK-produced SOFC stack, deployed within a Nissan designed fuel cell module suitable for operation with a variety of high efficiency fuel types (including biofuels).
The UK Government's 'Road to Zero' strategy, which requires a significant reduction in CO2 emissions, is accelerating the shift to battery Electric Vehicles. Introducing fuel cell technology alongside batteries further enables increased drive range and has a significant role to play in the acceleration of the uptake of battery EVs.
This latest announcement demonstrates Ceres Power's ability to bring its technology toward commercialisation through existing partnerships. The SteelCell® continues to attract world-class OEMs that are looking to develop an alternative to combustion engine technologies. Ceres Power has six strategic partners, including Cummins, Honda & Nissan, two as yet unnamed partners and a recently confirmed strategic investment partner in Weichai Power, which is primarily for range extension technology in China's fast-growing battery-electric bus market."
Phil Caldwell, CEO of Ceres Power, said:
"This latest announcement is testament to the strength of our relationship with Nissan, with whom we have already made significant strides in range extension technology over the past two years. We are grateful for the support from the APC and UK Government. The SteelCell® is now setting the standard for solid oxide fuel cell technology around the world. This year we have delivered on our commercial objectives and we continue to target an additional broad strategic collaboration in 2018."
Here is the Nissan e-POWER compared to all-electric and hybrid car: