Nissan claims to be working on a new ethanol-based fuel cell technology that could potentially be safer and cheaper than the hydrogen-based fuel cell technology that is currently under development by a number of OEMs.

It says the bio-fuelled Solid Oxide Fuel-Cell (SOFC)-powered system would be a world first for automotive. It features an e-Bio Fuel-Cell with an SOFC power generator. SOFC is a fuel cell utilising the reaction of multiple fuels, including ethanol and natural gas, with oxygen to produce electricity with high efficiency, the company says.

The e-Bio Fuel Cell generates electricity through the SOFC (power generator) using bio-ethanol stored in the vehicle. The e-Bio Fuel-Cell utilises hydrogen transformed from fuel via a reformer and atmospheric oxygen, with the subsequent electrochemical reaction producing electricity to power the vehicle.

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 gasoline-powered cars" (more than 600km). In addition, Nissan says 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).

Nissan also held out the possibility of ethanol-blended water as a safe to handle fuel. "As this will remove limits on creating a totally new infrastructure, it has great potential for market growth," Nissan claimed.

Nissan also said that running costs will be remarkably low - on a par with today's EVs.