Automakers across the globe are jockeying for position in the world of alternative powertrains. So far, we’ve seen EVs and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles take the lead, but Nissan has a new technology that is a little more outside the box.
This new powertrain technology is known as Solid Oxide Fuel-Cell and it uses an e-bio fuel cell to generate electricity through the SOFC with the aid of bio-ethanol. This system uses the bio-ethanol and atmospheric oxygen to produce hydrogen, which in turn powers the e-bio fuel cell. The resulting electrochemical reaction is what the vehicle uses to power the electric motor.
Unfortunately, using bio-ethanol, which is sourced from sugarcane and corn, does result in CO2 emissions. Nissan claims that this CO2 is neutralized by the additional growth of sugarcane. So, technically, this would be a carbon-neutral mode of transportation, but there are some other details to take into account here.
I am no scientist, so I can’t authoritatively comment on this claim, but it sounds a little fishy to me. Sure, sugarcane does absorb up to 30 tons of CO2 per half-hectare, but what emissions are produced when creating the bio-ethanol? There are the CO2 emissions of the machines harvesting the crops, the emissions created from making the fertilizer, and so on. So, is it truly “carbon-neutral?” Likely not.
Maybe Nissan will elaborate further on this in the future, giving us more details on what emissions are actually neutralized, but I am a skeptic at this point. Stay tuned for more.