Toyota might be the world’s largest hybrid automaker, but that isn’t stopping rival Japanese automaker Nissan from trying to become the world leader in hybrid electric car transporter ships.

Its latest ship, announced on Tuesday this week, puts it ahead in the race to have the greenest shipping fleet of any automaker.

Called the Nichioh Maru, the massive roll-on/roll-off coastal transporter ship replaces the usual diesel-powered electricity generators found on most ships with 281 photovoltaic solar panels mounted above deck.

Capable of meeting the majority of the ship’s electrical power requirements, the solar panels massively reduce the amount of diesel fuel burned to generate electricity on each trip. 

Nichioh Maru Ship

Nichioh Maru Ship

There’s more too. The ship is also fitted with energy-saving LED lighting throughout its hold and living quarters, while the hull is painted with the latest in low-friction paint, allowing it to slip through the water more easily. 

And while it is powered by a huge diesel engine, the engine is controlled electronically to ensure it burns as little fuel as possible. 

All told, Nissan says its new ship will lower its fuel bill by 1,400 tons of diesel per year, and lower carbon emissions by 4,200 tons.

The Nichioh Maru is the first ship of its kind in Japan to be used on domestic shipping routes, and will be used to help Nissan deliver new 2012 Nissan Leafs from its factory in Oppama to ports all over the island nation. 

Nissan now has two eco-friendly ships it uses regularly to transport 2012 Leafs to customers around the world: The Nichioh Maru, and the City of St.Petersburg -- a ship unveiled last year with an aerodynamic spherical prow designed to reduce fuel consumption. 

Nichioh Maru Ship

Nichioh Maru Ship

Toyota, on the other hand, only has one we’re aware of -- the diesel-electric hybrid Auriga Leader car transporter used to bring Toyota and Lexus cars from Japan to the U.S. 

We’re pretty sure however, that won’t remain the case for much longer. 

We can’t wait to see what comes next. 


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