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Nissan pushes fuel-cell limits

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Nissan pushes fuel-cell limits

X-Trail benefits from decade-long research effort

By DINO DALLE CARBONARE

AutoWeek | Published 04/18/06, 11:09 am et

Nissan has devoted 10 years to fuel-cell research and that decade of development is packed into its latest FCV X-Trail sport/utility vehicle.

Nissan developed and built a fuel stack in-house and its latest unit manages to squeeze the stack’s advanced technology in a smaller and lighter package. The new stack develops 120 hp—35 hp more than the one fitted to the previous 2003 FCV X-Trail. As a result the new model offers better acceleration and response, not to mention higher top speed.

The benefits of the fuel-cell packaging improvements extend to the interior, where space is freed for passengers. The lithium-ion battery pack, which is stored under the trunk floor, is also smaller, allowing for more cargo room. Finally, the smaller fuel-cell unit liberates 40 percent more space under the front seats.

The massive egg-shaped hydrogen tank, which features an aluminum inner liner and tough carbon fiber exterior shell, still poses the biggest packaging problem. Nissan positions it under the rear seats, considerably cutting into headroom. The tougher tank allows for a substantial increase of gas pressure, permitting 30 percent more hydrogen storage, which extends the vehicle’s cruising range to 312 miles.

On the road the X-Trail feels potent. Once the onboard computer system gives the “ready” signal, driving is as simple as selecting drive and tapping into that zero-emission power. Nissan has engineered the FCV X-Trail to make the driving experience feel normal, except for the obvious lack of an exhaust note. There is no hiding the fact you are being propelled by electric power, as the train-like motor whine is always audible in the background but is never obtrusive.

Engineers shaved 220 pounds off this X-Trail compared to the 2003 fuel-cell X-Trail, decreasing curb weight to a more acceptable 4100 pounds. Floor the X-Trail and it accelerates effortlessly up to a 70-mph cruising speed and easily attains a 93-mph top speed.

Nissan’s efforts to research and develop fuel-cell technology recently paid off in approval from the Japanese government to begin public road testing and leasing of the company’s latest fuel-cell vehicle, which will allow for more stringent real-world testing. No word yet on when Nissan plans to put fuel-cell vehicles in the hands of consumers.

Link: http://www.autoweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/arti...E/60417013/1065

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