Nissan Motor Company has announced it is researching and developing an electric power system that runs on bio-ethanol.

The unit uses hydrogen derived from the bio-ethanol to generate power, but unlike other car manufacturers’ hydrogen vehicles, it would not require a whole new infrastructure of hydrogen filling stations.

Bio-ethanol is already available in some countries and can be dispensed using existing filling station tanks and pumps.

The new system, which according to Nissan is a world first for automotive use, features an e-Bio Fuel-Cell with a solid oxide fuel-cell (SOFC) power generator. SOFC is a fuel cell utilising the reaction of multiple fuels, including ethanol and natural gas, with oxygen to produce electricity.

The e-Bio Fuel Cell uses bio-ethanol to produce hydrogen, with the subsequent electrochemical reaction producing electricity to power the vehicle.

Nissan said: “Unlike conventional systems, e-Bio Fuel-Cell features SOFC as its power source, affording greater power efficiency to give the vehicle cruising ranges similar to petrol-powered cars (more than 600km).

“In addition, the e-Bio Fuel-Cell car’s distinct electric-drive features — including silent drive, linear start-up and brisk acceleration — allow users to enjoy the joys and comfort of a pure electric vehicle (EV).”

It also pointed out that ethanol-blended water is easier and safer to handle than most other fuels, and will ensure short filling times.

It added: “The e-Bio Fuel-Cell will realise 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.”