Nissan is planning to add a fuel cell vehicle to its zero-emission lineup, though the company noted that it won’t be rushing to get the vehicle to market.

Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn has been a strong proponent of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) for some time, but the company has kept its options open. In January 2013 it co-announced a collaborative agreement with Ford and Daimler to develop shared FCV tech, having its own R&D work ongoing besides, and it looks like those plans are underway.

In an interview with Automotive News during last week’s Tokyo Motor Show, Ghosn indicated FCVs are on the horizon, if not as soon as a projected date of by 2017 in the 2013 agreement.

Nissan now plans to have its FCV available to customers in “like four to five years,” according to Ghosn (pictured above with the Nissan IDS autonomous BEV concept). A portion of the FCV will be developed in collaboration with Daimler AG.

“The only question about fuel cells is, we just think it is too early,” Ghosn said. “We’re facing already a problem with the charging infrastructure in electric cars. You can imagine the problem we’re going to have with fuel cells.

This still-growing hydrogen infrastructure has been one of Ghosn’s criticisms of fuel cell technology.

The “electric car is the most affordable one and the one which is ready to be used,” he said in September of zero emission vehicles. On the subject of BEV range, which is shorter than FCVs’, he noted, “You’re not going to solve this issue by giving a much, much bigger range for the car. There is also a complement to this issue, which is the charging infrastructure … So, yes, increasing the range is one challenge, and we’re tackling it. But there is another challenge is making sure there is a solid charging infrastructure on the ground.”

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Ghosn has also pointed out significant cost differences in developing an electric versus a hydrogen infrastructure.

“An analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory put the cost of upgrading one service station to dispense hydrogen at $2.5 million,” he said. “By comparison, EVs can be charged at home or work; a typical home EV charger costs less than $2,000 installed. In the United States, there are more than 8,800 public charging stations, compared with 13 hydrogen stations.”

Last week, Ghosn doesn’t clarify why Nissan has decided to build an FCV. But he did emphasize that the carmaker would take its time, possibly to wait for more hydrogen stations. Ghosn alluded that the unhurried pace can partially be attributed to strong sales of the Nissan Leaf, one of the top-selling BEVs.

“I understand that those who don’t develop electric cars are more tempted by going fuel cell, and they are in a hurry to put them on the market,” Ghosn said in Tokyo. “We are not in a hurry. Because we already have a zero-emissions solution. We’re not on the same time frame because we’re not in the same situation.”

Automotive News