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Nissan has confirmed it is working on hydrogen fuel cell (FCEV) technology in its H1 results briefing, pitching “energy diversity” as one of the key benefits, but based on its e-Power hybrids, the brand could be uniquely placed to take advantage of the tech in the near future.
In the report, Nissan said it has joined forces with Toyota and Honda on the development of the propulsion technology, which is primarily beneficial for vehicle types which need to maintain a high payload.
This is because hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can provide the high-torque benefits of electric motors without the need to carry around hundreds of kilos of batteries to maintain a sufficient range.
Of all brands, though, Nissan may be the most uniquely placed to take advantage of the technology in the future, as its second-generation e-Power hybrid technology appears by design to be interchangeable with hydrogen fuel cells.
Unlike Toyota series hybrids, e-Power drives the wheels via electric motors only, using the attached petrol engine in place of batteries to provide range, more like a range-extender EV.
The layout consists of a powerful electric motor and a hybrid-sized battery, which provides a buffer for storing power generated by the engine and regenerative braking, identical to how the fuel-cell systems work in the current Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo.
In other words, Nissan’s e-Power drivetrain should only need to swap the petrol engine for a fuel cell and fuel tanks for gas tanks, with most other components remaining the same.
Other brands, particularly Hyundai and Toyota, and Mercedes-Benz have earmarked the importance of hydrogen fuel cell for commercial applications, and while this holds stead for Nissan’s significant commercial presence, it is also expected to trickle down to passenger vehicle development, particularly to replace diesel applications right now.
So, while Nissan has recently said “why not” to an e-Power hybrid Navara, espousing the benefits of primarily electric drive, it would seem to suit hydrogen electric remarkably well too, even if it launches as a petrol-electric first.
Nissan’s H1 presentation even had an Australian connection, mentioning a vehicle-to-grid project in the works in the ACT, with the brand hoping to work with utilities suppliers to create an environment where Leaf owners can use the power from their cars to power their homes or create an ecosystem where they can sell electricity back to the grid.
The report also confirms it is working on as-yet-unseen plug-in hybrid models, specifically saying it will lean on its alliance partners (Renault and Mitsubishi) for access to the technology, in line with the group’s “leader-follower” development ethos.
It also reiterates its project to launch another battery-electric small SUV, which will sit between the Leaf hatch and Ariya mid-size SUV. The new EV will be global and is earmarked to be built in the UK.
Nissan is in the process of turning itself around after the dramatic departure of former alliance CEO Carlos Ghosn. The chapter hurt Nissan’s outlook with an ageing model line-up and lack of synchronisation with its European partner, Renault.
New Nissan boss Makoto Uchida has made it his mission to put Nissan back on track and mend ties with its partner, as well as focus the brand on sustainability toward not just an emissions-free, but a carbon neutral status by 2050.