Nissan has revealed the world’s first solid-oxide fuel cell (SOFC) vehicle that runs on bio-ethanol electric power. “The e-Bio Fuel-Cell offers eco-friendly transportation and creates opportunities for regional energy production, all the while supporting the existing infrastructure,” said Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn.

“In the future, the e-Bio Fuel-Cell will become even more user-friendly. Ethanol-blended water is easier and safer to handle than most other fuels. Without the need to create new infrastructure, it has great potential to drive market growth,” he added.

The vehicle here is based on a Nissan e-NV200, and comes equipped with a 24 kWh battery and a hydrogen fuel cell. However, instead of filling the tanks with hydrogen, the car uses ethanol, which goes through a reformer in the SOFC system, to produce hydrogen for the fuel cell. The van is claimed to have a cruising range of about 600 km.

Unlike hydrogen, ethanol can be readily distributed from available infrastructure as mentioned by Ghosn. Therefore, you can refill a SOFC vehicle at a regular fuel station that offers ethanol. The downside here is, reforming ethanol into hydrogen will produce a small amount of CO2.

However, the company says the CO2 produced can be offset by the plants (corn, soy and sugar cane) that are used to produce ethanol, allowing for what Nissan calls a “carbon neutral cycle.” Of course, the CO2 output associated with the system doesn’t take into account the amount generated to produce ethanol.

According to Yukimasa Ban, general manager for advanced vehicle engineering at Nissan, the technology should be ready for vehicles around 2020, making hydrogen-powered vehicles more accessible to the masses, although he did not reveal what vehicles would benefit from the technology.