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Nissan shows their tech with new hydrogen fuel cell

Hydrogen fuel cells are the way forward, and Nissan is at the forefront of development...

When it comes to ‘zero emission’ vehicles, Nissan seems to be only focusing on the Electric-only Leaf. Well now it’s just announced that it has developed what they say is the world’s most advanced fuel cell stack. By that, they mean a Hydrogen fuel cell.

Indeed, Nissan’s latest generation automotive fuel cell stack has two and a half times the power density of the previous generation stack and develops a claimed world’s best 2.5kW per litre. Not only that, it is half the size of most existing stacks and the cost is just one-sixth that of the previous version, partly due to the reduction of materials such as platinum. Nissan says that this latest stack can now be manufactured in volume at a competitive cost.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Nissan had given up on hydrogen, but the company has been quietly beavering away whilst others have thrown in the towel. “We never got discouraged and we never gave up,” says Masanari Yanagisawa, a 10-year veteran in the company’s fuel-cell R&D efforts. “So we just kept working, patiently and persistently. As a result, we have achieved what we believe is a major breakthrough.”

“The new stack is a lot smaller. We can now pack 85 kilowatts of power in a 34-litre package. Better yet, we have brought the production cost down by 85 percent.”

That’s a pretty huge step forward, no question. And Nissan’s fuel cell team says that they are ready to bring a car to market “at any time.” Yanagisawa said: “The only hurdle remaining is hydrogen distribution. Give us the hydrogen and we’ll give you an FCEV. We’re good to go!”

Well, yes. As always, any discussion of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles comes back to infrastructure, storage, transport and production, all of which remain hugely unresolved issues. But with a nod to that, Nissan also says that we don’t need to wait for a “continent-wide hydrogen infrastructure. Taxis, delivery vans and other city-specific fleets could quickly be converted to zero-emission fuel cells.”

You could say the very same for plug-in electric vehicles. And having spent $billions developing the pure electric LEAF, you’d have to wonder what Nissan is playing at with such dogged pursuit of a hydrogen solution. We’d also have to wonder whether the smaller fuel cell stack could be engineered to fit the LEAF, if and when hydrogen supplies become widely available.

We suspect that the answer is a little more prosaic. With so many front-line manufacturers still pursuing hydrogen fuel cell technology, a giant like Nissan simply can’t afford to be left behind.

And Yanagisawa’s take is candidly revealing: “This breakthrough puts us in the front rank of fuel-cell developers around the world. Best of all, it puts us ahead of our competitors.”

Interesting tech for sure, as currently the limiting factor in EVs is battery technology. So let's see what Hydrogen can do for us...

Image courtesy of Nissan


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About Tim Oldland

Contributing Editor - Long time petrolhead, automotive design engineer and journalist. Also Social Media Manager for the ecurie25 Group - Tim has worked in the automotive sector for many years, but has been a fan of anything with 2 or 4... read more