The modern lithium-ion battery packs found in most of today’s popular electric cars have been designed to offer many tens of thousands of miles and many years of service, providing zero-emission motoring to drivers all around the world.
Unless the car the battery pack is fitted in is located in a very hot climate or is a high-mileage vehicle that covers tens of thousands of miles a year with frequent rapid charging, most electric car battery packs will last for the life of the car — or at least into its second decade of use. But even when a battery pack ages and can no-longer supply the high-currents and high capacity needed for life on the road, it can still be used in other, less-demanding situations such as backup emergency power storage or grid-connected commercial energy management installations.
In some cases — as with Transport Evolved’s regular contributor Ben Nelson — those battery packs can even find themselves into another electric vehicle with lower power demands, or even into a DIY, home-made energy storage system.
Which is why Nissan, manufacturer of the world’s most popular LEAF electric car, has just announced a partnership with 4R Energy and Green Charge Networks to repurpose used electric car battery packs in large commercial-scale grid-tied energy storage systems.
Like other projects from BMW and Tesla, Nissan’s second-life electric vehicle battery project will enable used Nissan LEAF and Nissan e-NV200 electric vehicle battery packs to be repurposed after they have finished their life in an electric car. After thorough testing, used battery packs will be repackaged and combined with other used battery packs into a large grid-connected system designed to offset peak electricity demand.
The first of these combined storage units will be installed and commissioned this summer at a Nissan North America facility in the U.S.
“A lithium-ion battery from a Nissan LEAF still holds a great deal of value as energy storage, even after it is removed from the vehicle, so Nissan expects to be able to reuse a majority of LEAF battery packs in non-automotive applications,” said Brad Smith, director of Nissan 4R Energy in the U.S. “Nissan looks forward to working with Green Charge Networks to get second-life vehicle batteries into the hands of customers who can realise benefits that include improved sustainability and lower energy costs.”
4R Energy Corporation, based in Yokohama, Japan, was founded in September 2010 as a joint venture between Nissan and the Sumitomo Corporation to conduct research on second-life of used electric car lithium-ion battery packs. Its name — 4R — is an allusion to the company’s aims: to Reuse, Prefabricate, Resell and Recycle electric car battery packs to help promote sustainable business practices and reduce wastage.
Green Charge Networks, meanwhile, specialises in the manufacture and supply of grid-connected energy storage systems that help large companies manage and mitigate their peak power uses throughout the day to ensure that they are not hit with large, expensive peak-use charges. As we covered back in April, Green Charge Network’s products can even be used to help companies offer electric car fast charging for less.
So far, Nissan has sold more than 178,000 LEAFs since the car was launched in late 2010, representing more than 4.27 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion storage which will one day be able to start a new life as a grid-connected battery in a peak energy shaving unit. With more LEAFs hitting the road every day — and Nissan well into production of its e-NV200 electric van for European and Asian markets, that figure will just rise and rise.
It’s worth noting of course, that Nissan’s take on grid-tied storage is to repurpose used lithium-ion battery packs rather than to manufacture brand-new ones for use in specific grid applications — as is the case with Tesla’s upcoming Tesla Energy products and Daimler’s recently announced domestic and commercial battery storage systems.
In terms of capacity too, Nissan’s the current capacity of LEAF battery packs in use in the wild — 4.27 gigawatt-hours by our calculation — is only a tiny fraction of the 50 gigawatt-hours of battery packs and 35 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion cells Tesla aims to make every year from 2017 at its Gigafactory in Reno, Nevada.
But as we’re sure you’ll agree, it’s great to know that used Nissan electric car battery packs won’t be going to landfill after they finish their useful life in a car.
Given that one of our staff Nissan LEAFs has now lost two capacity bars and is offering a real-world range of between 50 and 70 miles per charge after 76,000 miles of use, we think it won’t be long before our LEAF’s battery pack heads to one such facility.
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