Fleet News

Green transport: Technology is 15 years away, but this is a promising start

NISSAN is researching fuel cell technology in conjunction with its alliance partner, Renault, and has begun limited leasing of the X-trail FCV in Japan.

Modifications since the car began testing on public roads in Japan in 2002 have meant improvements giving the car a more usable range with more than 200 miles possible.

In March, Cosmo Oil took delivery of the first Nissan FCV for research and development of hydrogen filling technology, while Kanagua Prefecture and Yokohama City began their leases in April for co-operation on data acquisition from running the vehicles.

Cost, efficiency, refuelling infrastructure and acceptance are some of the barriers that stand in the way of large-scale production of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and it is likely to be 15 or 20 years before we see the cars on the roads in significant numbers.

We can expect those vehicles to be even more advanced than the 200-mile modified versions of current showroom cars, but the X-trail FCV seems to be a promising start.

Visually similar to the X-trail available in your local Nissan showroom, the FCV is given away by its deep air intake and bumper at the front and reduced ground clearance. Inside it is also similar, with little compromise to the additional technology it carries.

The fuel cell stack is hidden under the passenger seat, the hydrogen tanks are under the rear bench and behind the rear seat back is the compact lithium-ion battery.

The rear seat is rather higher than in the standard X-trail to accommodate the hydrogen tanks, but the high roofline means headroom isn't sacrificed too much.

The colour-screen where satellite navigation is normally viewed shows a display illustrating where power is going to the wheels or being regenerated under braking and being stored in the battery.

The biggest worry about driving the FCV on a short urban route near San Francisco was the fact that the near-silent electric motor would fail to broadcast the car's presence before a pedestrian stepped out into the road.

With a top speed of 90mph and nippy acceleration in urban traffic, the X-trail FCV feels pretty similar to driving a standard X-trail, which is a good indicator that when fuel cell vehicles become more widely available, most drivers should be able to complete the transition without fuss.

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