Nissan unveils energy-efficient Nichio Maru car carrier


January 30, 2012

The Nichio Maru achieves a fuel reduction of up to nearly 1,400 tons annually, which translates to an annual reduction in CO2 emissions of 4,200 tons

The Nichio Maru achieves a fuel reduction of up to nearly 1,400 tons annually, which translates to an annual reduction in CO2 emissions of 4,200 tons

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With large cargo freighters being a major source of CO2 emissions worldwide it's been encouraging to see various efforts to make such vessels more efficient. In recent years we've seen the development of the world's biggest container ship to cut CO2 emissions per container moved, air bubbles used to cut the friction between a ship's hull and the ocean, and even plans to return to the use of sails to cut fuel use. Now Nissan has launched an energy efficient coastal car carrier called the Nichio Maru that employs solar panels, LED lighting, a low friction hull coating hull and an electronically controlled diesel engine to cut fuel consumption.

The newly built Nichio Maru began its maiden voyage on January 7, 2012, and is the first coastal cargo ship in Japan to have photovoltaic solar panels installed. There are 281 solar panels in all, fitted to the ship's deck and used to power the LED lighting installed in the ship's hold and crew quarters.

Other energy efficiency features include the electronically controlled diesel engine that gives the 169.95 m (557 ft) long, 26 m (85 ft) wide vessel an operating speed of 21.2 knots (24.5 mph/39 km/h), and the use of a low friction hull coating that provides better sea mileage.

Nissan says, when compared to an existing car carrier of the same type, these features allow the Nichio Maru to achieve a fuel reduction of up to nearly 1,400 tons annually, which translates to an annual reduction in CO2 emissions of 4,200 tons.

The Nichio Maru can carry up to 1,380 cars and will operate on the main maritime route among the Kanto (Oppama), Kinki (Kobe) and Kyushu (Kanda) regions, making two round trips each week.

Part of Nissan's mid-term environmental action plan, Nissan Green Program 2016, the Nichio Maru joins "The City of St. Petersburg" energy efficient car carrier that the company began using in 2010 to transport its LEAF electric vehicles across Europe. That vessel boasts a sleek and semi-spherical bow to cut wind resistance by up to 50 percent, resulting in an estimated fuel reduction of 800 tons and 2,500 ton reduction in CO2 emissions annually.

Here's a video from Nissan profiling the Nichio Maru.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Oh the irony of making a car carrier more fuel efficient so it can deliver petrol burning vehicles.

I think we should look past the reduced CO2 emissions, good as they may be, and read between the lines. Nissan wants to reduce fuel usage by 1,400 tons (somewhere in the region of 1 million litres of fuel) to save on fuel costs, not to save the environment. Saving the environment is just a side effect. 1 million litres of diesel must cost between $1-$2 million dollars. The cost of installing solar panels, a fancy engine and led lighting will surely be paid off within a year or two and the rest is just profit. Nice one.


Smile a little. If greener is now also cheaper, it means the world is getting better every day.


Scion - If you knew how to read then you would know that this ship carriers Leafs, which is an all electric car.

Also, of course a big part of it is saving money...if you didn't care about that, you would go bankrupt.

Derek Howe

The ship is powered by a diesel engine meaning there is kinetic energy. That said I don\'t see the need for solar panels because if you connect an alternator or a few alternators to the moving diesel engine, you produce electricity with little or no extra energy required from the diesel engine to move those alternators. What sounds better is the use of solar panels to power up a motor that powers a few large generators with a belt or prop shaft that will power the ships electric engines which power the rotor blades and electricity requirements for the rest of the ship, no diesel engine needed.

Zenzo Mtungwa

@ Zenzo. If you use the engine to run lighting, that means some of the horsepower drain is taken away from propulsion. The generator needed for a ship this size would be large. Not having to use a generator for the lighting makes the engine simpler and potentially a slightly smaller engine needed.


re; VoiceofReason

Right but don\'t forget the parasitic drag of the generator\'s bearings and drive-line. .......................................................................................................................

Efficiency is great but the drivel about CO2 reduction is getting old.


Use of compressed air to super charge the engines or a large flywheel rotating mechanical device that is used to store rotational energy. Both of which could be charged while in Port.

Flipider Comm

Go NUCLEAR!!! Nuclear electric ship propulsion has the capability to vastly improve the carbon footprint of such large vessels. AND the best part is that, contrary to popular belief, it is recyclable. Just not politically favorable.

Gwyn Rosaire

THANK YOU Slowburn! :-)


What magic turns 1400 into 4200? CO2 comes out weighting 60 (each molecule), so needed at least 1960tons of pure \"C\" in the first place, no?

I love the way we\'re all signing up to trade something we can\'t see, and something that almost nobody knows about, and as it turns out, something that people can conjour up magic numbers from, yet nobody (else) seems to notice.

Whoever dreamed up this new trading comodoty was a genious. No need to scam pennies from poor folks, lets scam the entire wealth of nations, all at once, instead. Yay traders.


Scion, its actualy about 170000ltrs and diesel is approx .83kg a litre

Paul Harris

Ships like this are not fuelled with what most people would recognise as \"diesel\". Yes, it is powered by a diesel engine, i.e. one that operates on compression ignition, but the fuel is nothing like the liquid dispensed for car or truck use. These ships burn heavy fuel oil, more akin to bitumen than road fuel. It is so viscous that it needs to be kept hot to be able to be pumped from the tanks to the injectors. As it is a very complex, and varied depending on source, mix of substances it is extremely difficult to do the calculation from weight of fuel burned to weight of CO2 produced. Far more significant is the number of other pollutants that result from the combustion of heavy fuel oil. Oxides of nitrogen, sulphur, etc, etc. Large ship of any kind are, weight for weight, the worlds worst polluters.

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