Just like any other battery pack, the high-capacity, high-power lithium-ion battery packs found in most modern electric cars today slowly lose their capability to store electrical energy over time — or more accurately, they lose their ability to charge and deliver power at high currents.
In the electric car world, we refer to that loss as a loss in battery capacity, which results in a corresponding drop in real-world range per charge.
Eventually, those battery packs — usually after hundreds of thousands of miles in an electric car — have lost so much capacity that they can no-longer be used in an electric car due to the high currents pulled by an electric motor. But when repurposed in lower-current applications such off-grid or grid-tied energy storage solutions, those same battery packs can provide decades of additional storage.
Which is why Nissan has just announced a new partnership with power management specialists Eaton to repurpose used Nissan LEAF and Nissan e-NV200 battery packs after they have ended their useful life in an electric car in backup battery and energy storage systems.
Initially, Nissan and Eaton will combined their technologies to produce a series of different backup products for commercial use, ranging from massive grid-tied storage systems to smaller-scale business and domestic products.
With the majority of Nissan LEAFs still on their original battery packs, it may be a while before we’ll see large numbers of used LEAF and e-NV2000 battery packs entering into the program. But as early LEAFs begin to age, the number of lithium-ion battery packs being recycled in this manner will slowly increase, increasing the number of products Eaton and Nissan are able to produce from repurposed electric car batteries.
The first product to be developed will use repurposed LEAF battery cells alongside Eaton’s existing Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) technology and photovoltaic solar panels to build a fully integrated energy storage system that can operate either connected to or independent from the power grid.
As time progresses, the same technology will make it possible for systems to be built that can help smooth grid power supply demand by storing off-peak power and feeding it back into the grid during high-demand periods. It could even help those who live in areas far from the electrical grid to harness natural resources and turn them into sustainable, reliable energy.
If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Earlier this year, Nissan, Green Charge Networks and 4R Energy announced a similar project to repurpose used Nissan electric car batteries in the U.S. Many of Nissan’s competitors, including GM, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota are involved with similar projects too, ranging from grid-tied battery backup systems to stand-alone battery banks for use in remote locations.
What does this mean? Essentially, the more electric cars we put on the roads today, the more robust — and lower-carbon — our electrical grid will get in years to come.
Think of it as a double-whammy to help reduce the effects of climate change.
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