Finally an alternative fuel with none of the downsides.
For the most part, automakers have a relatively simple job. Make a car, build it better than the last rendition, and pray that it’s superior to what the other guys are offering. Sometimes, one manufacturer decides to go above and beyond, whether by choice of by the pressures of a changing world, and create a true science experiment on wheels with the capacity to change transportation as we know it. By the looks of things, Nissan has just done exactly that and the fruits of its labor may change the world.
While Tesla and seemingly every other automaker is working towards an electrified future, the Japanese car company’s latest offering may change that trajectory with some interesting technology. Essentially, the tech is not too different than a hydrogen-powered vehicle. Like a hydrogen car, passing a reacting chemical through an electrolyte produces the electricity it needs to charge the onboard battery and turn the wheels. Unlike a standard hydrogen car, Nissan’s system doesn’t actually require an owner to fill a high pressure tank full of the substance. Instead, it runs off of either pure ethanol or ethanol-blended water. The fuel then passes through a Solid Oxide Fuel Cell, or SOFC, to produce electricity.
The difference between an SOFC and a standard fuel cell is that instead of passing protons through the electrolyte, it sends oxygen ions swimming past. If the technology becomes a reality, then it would severely cut down on the dangers of having a 10,000 psi tank of hydrogen in the car and simultaneously make filling up the ethanol tank the same as topping off a gas tank now. Given that ethanol can be made using renewable ingredients such as corn and sugar cane, it would help to cut down on carbon emissions while keeping transportation simple. Don’t expect to see commercial applications until 2020. In the meantime, Nissan will keep selling eco-conscious customers the Leaf, which happens to be the best selling EV ever.