Everything you know about fuel cell vehicles, which hopefully isn’t nothing, could pretty much change. In traditional setups, pressurized hydrogen is kept in an onboard tank. This presents some big challenges that make fuel cell vehicles pretty impractical.
Nissan, Ford and Daimler are working on a new technology that would eliminate the need for pressurized hydrogen. Called “e-bio,” a bio-ethanol cocktail carried in a tank works with a reformer to make hydrogen on the go.
This would mean refueling doesn’t involve high-pressure gases, making it more familiar to all of us who pump gas right now. The ethanol mixture can be up to 55 percent water.
Like all new technologies, there are some big hurdles to overcome. Apparently, the hydrogen generation process needs plenty of heat to work properly, so there’s no jumping into a car and speeding off immediately. Big changes in temperature aren’t good for the technology’s durability, also making it impractical for production.
When it comes to emissions, Nissan openly admits that the tech is carbon neutral, but not zero emissions. Unlike other fuel cell setups, carbon dioxide is released. But because the plants that are part of the ethanol ingredients breathe in carbon dioxide, Nissan reasons it’s a zero-sum equation. Without specific data to back this up, for now there’s no telling if that’s actually the case.