Nissan Announces Plans for Fuel Cell Vehicle

Nissan Motor Co. announced plans Monday to launch a next-generation fuel cell vehicle in the early 2010s in Japan and North America as part of its mid-term environmental strategy.

Nissan Chief Operating Officer Toshiyuki Shiga said at a Tokyo press conference outlining the company's "Nissan Green Program 2010" that it will introduce from fiscal year 2010 gasoline engine technologies that will enhance fuel economy and at the same time reduce carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to diesel engine levels.

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The company aims to introduce a new fuel-cell vehicle using an improved fuel stack — the main part of such vehicles — developed in-house after 2010 that will offer performance on par with gasoline-power automobiles, Shiga said.

Fuel cell vehicles run on the power produced when oxygen in the air combines with hydrogen that's stored in the fuel tank — producing only harmless water vapor.

But for the mid-term future, Shiga said the company plans to focus on the internal combustion engine as the primary power source for its vehicles, and will concentrate on improving engine efficiency.

"To develop vehicles that are truly environmentally friendly, we need to make significant advances in internal combustion technology while working on electrical power sources in parallel," said Mitsuhiko Yamashita, Nissan's executive vice president for research and development in a statement.

As part of that effort, Shiga said in Tokyo that Nissan plans to develop a "three-liter car" capable of traveling 100 kilometers, or 60 miles, using just three liters, or about three quarts, of gasoline. The company hopes to unveil a new model in Japan in 2010.

"If you have to compensate for the cost of new technologies, you'll find that (gasoline) is very high performance for small cars in terms of balancing the costs for the customer in terms of fuel efficiency. You get high performance and low mileage," said Carlos Tavarez, executive vice president for product planning and corporate strategy.

Nissan will also unveil a 100-percent bioethanol fuel-ready model for the Brazilian market by 2009 and plans to introduce an electric vehicle starting in Japan during the early part of the next decade.

Demand for cleaner, safer and more fuel-efficient vehicles is growing, and some companies have formed partnerships to share costs and speed development.

General Motors Corp. (GM), DaimlerChrysler AG (DCX) and BMW AG, for example, are jointly developing a hybrid system to catch up with Toyota Motor Corp. (TM), Honda Motor Co. (HMC) and Ford Motor Co. (F).

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