Nissan Unveils World’s First Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell e-NV200 – Video

AUG 6 2016 BY MARK KANE 39

Nissan has unveiled its prototype e-NV200 van, equipped with a SOFC (Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell) range-extender in Rio de Janeiro.

Nissan e-NV200 with SOFC (Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell)

Nissan e-NV200 with SOFC (Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell)

A 5 kW SOFC, and a 30 liter tank for bio-ethanol, extends the range of the vehicle up to 600 km (373 miles).

Nissan first announced developments of ethanol fuel cells about month ago, and Brazil would seem to be the ideal market for tests of SOFC.

Whether SOFC equipped plug-ins will be the answer to introducing zero-emission in South America remains a looming question. Nissan said that it intends to deploy “a range of [SOFC] vehicles over coming years“.

“The fuel cell prototype forms part of Nissan’s ongoing commitment to the development of zero-emission vehicles. Nissan already sells the world’s highest-volume zero-emission car, the LEAF, and is pioneering Intelligent Mobility systems that will be deployed in a range of vehicles over coming years.

In this latest zero-emission development, the e-Bio Fuel-Cell prototype vehicle runs on 100-percent ethanol to charge a 24kWh battery that enables a cruising range of more than 600km. Nissan will conduct further field tests on public roads in Brazil using the prototype.

Nissan e-NV200 with SOFC (Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell)

Nissan e-NV200 with SOFC (Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell)

Research and development of the e-Bio Fuel-Cell was announced by Nissan in June in Yokohama. The powertrain is clean, highly efficient, easy to supply, and it runs on 100-percent ethanol or ethanol-blended water. Its carbon-neutral emissions are as clean as the atmosphere, which will be the part of natural carbon cycle. Also, the e-Bio Fuel-Cell offers the brisk acceleration and silent driving of an EV, along with its low-running costs, while boasting the driving range of a gasoline-engine vehicle.

Bio-ethanol fuels are mainly sourced from sugarcane and corn. These fuels are widely available in countries in North and South America, which feature widely established infrastructure. 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. In the future, people may only need to stop by small retail stores to buy fuel off the shelf.

Nissan e-NV200 with SOFC (Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell)

Nissan e-NV200 with SOFC (Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell)

Nissan e-NV200 with SOFC (Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell)

Nissan e-NV200 with SOFC (Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell)

In pursuit of realizing a zero-emission and zero-fatality society for cars, Nissan continues to promote vehicle intelligence and electrification. Nissan’s brand promise of “Innovation That Excites” is delivered with “Nissan Intelligent Mobility,” which focuses on how cars are powered, driven and integrated into society through a more enjoyable driving experience.

The e-Bio Fuel-Cell will realize the concept of “Nissan Intelligent Power,” promoting greater efficiency and electrification of cars and the joys of driving alongside battery EVs, such as the Nissan LEAF, Nissan e-NV200, and e-Power, which is equipped with an engine housing an exclusive large-capacity motor and power generator.

Nissan will continue to provide value to its customers by incorporating systems that enable the extraction of electric power from various fuels, while addressing the infrastructure issues tied to energy supply in every region of the world.

Nissan e-NV200 with SOFC (Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell)

Nissan e-NV200 with SOFC (Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell)

Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell vehicle Specifications

  • Base Vehicle: e-NV200
  • Battery Capacity: 24kWh
  • Energy Source: Electricity, Ethanol
  • Tank Capacity: 30L
  • SOFC Output: 5kW
  • Driving Range: 600km-plus

*Due to being a prototype vehicle, specifications are subject to change.”

Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn said:

“The e-Bio Fuel-Cell offers eco-friendly transportation and creates opportunities for regional energy production…all the while supporting the existing infrastructure. In the future, the e-Bio Fuel-Cell will become even more user-friendly. Ethanol-blended water is easier and safer to handle than most other fuels. Without the need to create new infrastructure, it has great potential to drive market growth.”

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39 Comments on "Nissan Unveils World’s First Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell e-NV200 – Video"

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If fuel cells are (supposedly) so efficient, and biogas has (by far) the best EROEI of biofuels, then why not put developmental focus on fuel cells that can run on biogas (instead of bio-ethanol, hydrogen, etc…)?

Total guess here, but SOFC still have emissions and would be forced to comply with standards set for ICEs. They may be more efficient, but at the same time might put out NOx gases at levels too high. The emissions regulations call for certain allowable max levels during regular operation and during warm up.

The only emissions from a sofc are co2 and water. The original Ceres unit (the company supplying the fuel cell) ran on natural gas. They are going for ethanol because it is a biofuel and a liquid.

That’s all an ICE should emmit on paper too.

Fuel cell is a completely different thing. You could also claim that reactions inside a Li-Ion battery emit NOx.

A lithium ion battery is completely sealed and has a completely closed reaction. So it emits absolutely nothing (and there is no nitrogen in the chemicals in the first place).

A SOFC on the other hand does have emissions and does take in nitrogen from the air. There are two mechanisms where it forms NOx: Thermal NOx (SOFC are usually high temp) and prompt NOx (formation in presence of fuel). The amounts of obviously much lower than an ICE, but it is measurable.

SOFC operate at high temperature and can reform any light hydrocarbons including biogas. I think it applies to this Nissan one too. However liquid fuel is more convenient, takes less volume for tank and it can use existing liquid fuel infrastructure. Around half of car fuel sold in Brasil is sugarcane ethanol already.

If you go with gaseous fuel you may just use PEM fuel cells with pure H2 that don’t require high temperature, have no tailpipe emissions from hydrocarbon reforming and are relatively well developed. SOFC in a car/van is new exotics yet and it is not clear if it will be possible to make it work in production cars or trucks beyond prototypes.

A direct ethanol fuel cell would be better than an indirect method with a SOFC (probably chosen because the direct method requires a more difficult technology), but a Bioethanol vehicle has at least a real renewable aspect that fracking gas, coal or oil based Hydrogen has not.

For the moment and probably for a while, a bioethanol fuel cell is one of the best solutions for a certain number of applications when a pure electric solution becomes hard or presently impossible. Perhaps for certain range extenders but mainly for long range airplanes on transcontinental lines. It is also interesting for boats since there is no pollution associated with a potential bioethanol spill that could occur in the water and the higher yield allows longer range on a same tank volume.

Of course Bioethanol production itself must still improve away from food crops based towards wood waste and other bio waste based productions but that is also the case for electricity that still has to improve from fossil based towards wind and photovoltaic based.

Headline is wrong with e-NV300. I think it only make senes in Brasil were Bio fuels are normal. Don’t know if there are other countries using biofuels like brasil?

SOFC usually can run on any fuel source, propane, gasoline, ethanol.

There are plenty of gas stations carrying E85 in the US too. It is somewhat more expensive than regular gas (E10 or whatever) per energy equivalent now, but fuel cell should be much more efficient than combustion engine, so it should make up the difference. At least in Brasil it should be no brainer as ethanol is already cheaper fuel there.

Which countries do not use biofuels?

What gases make up the exhaust?

If it contains CO2 then its purpose is defeated.

It doesn’t contain significantly more CO2 than sugarcane takes from atmosphere.

It’s a bit like burning wood and then planting a tree, besides, let’s not forget this is a battery electric car, the fuel cell is just a range extender. It certainly makes sense for a lot of people, me included. I think in Europe people drive a lot less, therefore it will be a lot more difficult to justify a 60 kwh battery

In Europe, people do drive less overall, but they also have paid holidays, and they use it once a year to make that long drive to the Mediterranean coast, and they want to do it in less than a day.

I’m not so sure about that. Everyone is waiting 60+ kWh EVs here. In my country distances between cities are long.

CO2 is totally harmless so having it in the exhaust is no problem what so ever. It’s the aggregated amount of CO2 that is a problem and what you get when you add CO2 to the system from fossil fuels (and non-sustainable biofuels).

CO2 from biofuels are generally part of a closed loop which do not add to the system and is the definition of renewable.
Unlike for example solar which is not renewable (even though a lot of people like to call it that) but a part of what is called either (almost) endless energy (together with wind and wave energy) or just plainly nuclear energy.

The CO2 emitted was absorbed by the plant during growth. CO is used as a fuel in SOFCs.

Ethanol is the US is also cheaper at the pump and is being made more and more from algae and cellulose.

You can splash blend it today in all gasoline cars at 50% and run full E85 on all yellow gas cap vehicles. Awesome!

A technology described as “solid oxide fuel cell” (SOFC) that uses ethanol for fuel? I realize it’s doing onboard reforming, but still that seems confusing to me. Why is it described as “solid oxide” tech if it can be powered by hydrogen released by an onboard reformer?

Color me confused.

* * * * *

I’m all for finding a way of powering fuel cell EVs that doesn’t require the use of shockingly inefficient, impractically expensive compressed hydrogen fuel. Unfortunately, the primary source of ethanol fuel is corn-into-ethanol, which has diverted farmland use into producing fuel instead of producing food. This has already had a disruptive effect on the international price of corn, and anything that increases demand for ethanol fuel is only going to make that situation worse.

Bottom line: Trying to scale up corn-into-ethanol fuel into a major course of transportation energy may not be as stupid as trying to scale up using compressed hydrogen gas as a transportation fuel, but it’s not much smarter, either.

I have nothing against the technology of fuel cells. It’s the fuel used to power them that renders the tech wholly impractical.

Ethanol and methanol can be made from cellulose like corn stalks. We already grow corn, now use the grain for feed and the stalks for fuel.

SJC said:

“Ethanol and methanol can be made from cellulose like corn stalks.”

Yes, but it’s not possible to greatly scale up production of a product which depends on waste from another industry. Once you’re using nearly 100% of that waste, you have to look elsewhere for your raw material.

In other words, fuel made from this source could never replace more than a small fraction of the gasoline & diesel we burn to fuel transportation.

It can replace 10% of our gasoline just from the stalks on 100 million acres of corn grown in the U.S. The Billion Ton Study shows that more can be made from other biomass as well.

Isn’t a SOFC Output of 5kW too little to keep highway cruising speeds when the battery is low?

Yes, it depends on use. For urban delivery there is plenty of parked time to recharge. Put enough batteries on board to use the SOFC as a range extender.

Indeed it is too low for sustained highway cruise. But remember it’s just a prototype.

Yes, it’s too little. 5kW equals about 30 km/h continuous. 30 kW would equal about 130 km/h and enough for most places.
40 kW would put 99% of people on the safe side.

Personally I would not consider a fuel cell under 20 kW and I’ve one of those masochistic EV owners/users who has struggled with low range EVs so for “normal” people more is needed.

Keep in mind this is essentially acting as a range extender.

And as with the BMW i3’s 30 kW onboard range extender, under some conditions the system can still deplete battery faster than the range extended replenishes.

That can be okay as long as you have enough buffer.

But while 5 kW certainly isn’t enough to keep up for long stretches of driving, it essentially gives a disconnected “trickle charge” for the battery. A vehicle that is in regular use throughout the day but cannot opportunity to charge could see some benefit from the SOFC.

A vehicle that is going on a long road trip would need a significantly more powerful system. A Nissan LEAF charging with CHAdeMO would be able to cover more ground more quickly than a system operating on the SOFC alone.

Sure, you can find uses for it just like some could have use for a 50 mile BEV. But for 99% it’s useless.
The real need for range-extending is on longer trips and then 30-40 kW would be the minimum for general acceptance.

It’s a start but we will never see a vehicle for sale with a silly 5 kW fuel cell.

As I’ve written elsewhere, this is a far more practical fuel cell vehicle for the states, seeing as we already have plenty of Ethanol production and distribution. No need to invent the wheel. It will be interesting to see the efficiency figures and see whether the car can go further on a gallon of Ethanol than a totally ICE vehicle can. If it can go MUCH FURTHER, then that settles what the future vehicle will be.

Sorry Mirai and Clarity – the only one of you selling any vehicles will be the Clarity BEV.

High Pressure Hydrogen tanks are obsoleted by this technology – as well as the yet to be developed ‘Hydrogen Highways’; they’re already obsolete.

It is not developed technology in automotive use, you are getting excited too early. It is just 5 kW demo that may never go into production use, and nobody knows cost and efficiency of production system, and how many start-stop cycles it will be able to handle. Maybe it will be more efficient than ICE, but it will also likely to have some small tailpipe emissions because of reforming.

There is nothing wrong with compressed fuel tanks other than somewhat higher volume. They still fit into regular cars/SUVs, have good enough ~300 miles range, are much stronger and safer than paper thin gasoline tanks. LPG and LNG tanks are already used around the world, in some countries every second car uses them just fine. Ultimately the cheaper technology will win, not just because it uses or not uses compression tanks.

It is easy to reform methanol to hydrogen on the car for use by a PEM fuel cell. Mercedes did it for more than a decade with the NECAR.

I don’t know much details but wouldn’t say that it is easy. In particular Palladium requirement for methanol reformer rings the cost bell.

My knee-jerk reaction to methanol is that I don’t want to deal with it at all. 10 mL of methanol causes permanent blindness, and methanol vapor is toxic even at low concentrations when it can’t be smelled. When you notice poisoning symptoms, it is often too late. Pressure tanks, that can survive high speed impact much better than humans, look more attractive for me. I think Mercedes eventually have settled on them too, NECAR 5 was in 2000 and F-cell followed later.

Then reform ethanol, liquid has a higher energy density than a gas.

BTW, gasoline is also toxic. Methanol is used in numerous industrial processes safely.

Methanol was used to fuel Indy cars until the ethanol craze came along. It was safer than gasoline.

Yes methanol is used in industry, as well as much more toxic chemicals. But this would by in my home, not be some remote industrial facility. Maybe automakers eventually can figure a way to do it safely enough, but I don’t want to be the first guinea pig playing with poison.

Fair point.

Remember that gasoline is also poison. Don’t go drinking it. 😉

So you would rather have a tank of gasoline in your garage than a tank of methanol. Indy found methanol to be much safer.

More than 20 billion gallons of methanol are made and used annually in the U.S. each year with no problems.

If you want to get the real information on methanol manufacture and use go to:
methanol.org
or continue to believe what you want.

Comparing electrical consumption on a 2013 Volt, 125Wh/km @ 90kmh/55mhp flat roads Nice weather. Range with 10.5kWh is 80km (50miles). Instantanious cobsuption is 11kW. A Range extender of 5kW would extend this 80km bev range to 150km. Just shy of 100miles.

If sofc becomes affordable, and output goes up alittle IT should Help Holiday minded trips.

Also the sofc may continue to run when the car is parked for the next/return trip.