Sustainable mobility takes to the open water, as Nissan launches its first energy-efficient, coastal car carrier, the Nichioh Maru.
The maker of the first mass-marketed, 100% electric vehicle - the Nissan LEAF - now employs an eco vessel nicknamed "Roro" - for roll-on and roll-off pick-ups and deliveries.
At one-and-a-half football fields in length, the carrier took four years to complete and began its maiden voyage January 27.
The red-white-and-blue Nichioh Maru's green secret is its energy-saving, electronically -controlled diesel engine, with 281 solar panels fitted to the carrier's deck.
These panels, and the LED lights they illuminate in the ship's hold and crew quarters, are a first in Japan, says Tomohiko Uchiyama, president of Nitto Kaiun Corporation, Roro's operator.
"As Nissan went to the effort to launch the Nissan LEAF at that time, in terms of the logistical flow, we thought there would be a way for us to contribute using state-of-the-art technologies," said Uchiyama.
"This is the first domestic vessel to have photovoltaic panels. Together using LED lighting on this ship, we aim to create an energy-efficient carrier.
"And, especially, if we use solar panels, we can reduce CO2 emissions because we don't need to use oil for operating the generator. Already with this aspect, I believe that we can say that the introduction of this ship is a success."
Roro has additional cutting-edge features, including a low-friction coating on its hull, for better sea mileage.
With a capacity of up to 1,380 cars, Nichioh Maru will join two other carriers in daily service on a 1,800 km domestic roundtrip route from Oppama Wharf near Yokohama, to Kobe, and then to the southern island of Kyushu - making two roundtrips per week.
The ship's captain, 38-year veteran Tamotsu Sato, is pleased to be at the eco-helm.
"Something that's gentle to the environment - that's the most important thing, considering the current system on the ship. And, of course, we also have the solar power system," said Sato. "This carrier is important in many ways. In my opinion, as a captain, I have no doubt that this ship will be a front runner in this industry...And from here on out, I plan to do my best to again boost my skill set to work with this new technology."
The Nichioh Maru follows in the sustainability wake of the City of St. Petersburg eco-carrier, which Nissan began using in 2010 for international routes in Europe.
The Nissan Green Program 2016 aims to use more renewable energy and have an industry-leading, small carbon footprint.
Each roundtrip uses roughly 13 tons fewer fuel, for a reduction in CO2 emissions of 18% compared with a standard vessel.
This makes the eco-ship a dream carrier, and with more carriers to follow, Nissan is positioned to stay leagues ahead in sustainable mobility.