Nissan is repurposing its LEAF batteries for the JR East, Japan’s biggest rail network. The batteries will serve as a backup power source for maintenance and emergencies. The OEM allied with 4R Energy Corp. and East Japan Railway to install repurposed batteries in 160 train crossings during this fiscal year. This project follows an initial trial program in which Nissan LEAF batteries were tested at 10 railroad crossings.
“A Nissan LEAF’s lithium-ion battery retains 60-80 percent of its electricity storage capacity at the end of its life cycle in a car. Therefore, by reusing used EV batteries, we can direct this remaining energy capacity elsewhere, such as into new replacement vehicle batteries or stationary batteries,” said Nissan.
Nissan’s LEAF batteries will replace the currently used lead-acid batteries in the railway, which are less durable and need more charging time. "With lead-acid batteries, we have to periodically visit railroad crossings to check the state of charge and any deterioration. However, with repurposed lithium-ion batteries, there is a control system attached, similar to an EV, so we can remotely check the battery's status,” said Kaito Tochichara, Chief Researcher, East Japan Railway R&D Center.
While EVs contribute to the reduction of local road pollutants and CO2 emissions , EV’s batteries (EVB) have been linked to negative environmental effects. Although lithium is not toxic by itself, lithium-ion batteries contain cobalt, nickel and manganese, which are considered toxic heavy metals.
As more batteries reach retirement age, their repurposing has increased. The environmental benefits of electromobility can be doubled when EVB are repurposed; CO2 mitigation associated with battery reuse is similar to the one originated from shifting from an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle to an EV.
Moreover, recycling EVB brings down the EV’s total cost of ownership, said Eiji Makino, CEO, 4R Energy. EV’s owners can find the battery of their cars is a valuable asset as demand for batteries that are past their useful life increases. Components of batteries can be reused for industrial machinery or for a new EV power unit. However, the lack of standardization complicates the refurbishment process. Automakers can implement second-life applications when designing a car to overcome this challenge.
Recycling batteries boosts the circular economy as materials return back to the value chain. The circular economy strategies that OEMs are implementing respond to the increasing scarcity of resources. Using recycled materials in vehicles is gaining popularity among automakers because sustainable value chains are becoming more important for the industry, as reported by PWC.
Aside from promoting circular economy in Japan, Nissan has been a key actor in boosting electrification in Mexico. "The best fit in terms of technology for markets such as Mexico is e-Power. Whereas hybrid vehicles have a big internal combustion engine and a small electric engine, e-Power has a larger electric motor that powers a small fuel engine. e-Power provides additional benefits as it does not need to be plugged in and has the performance of an electric vehicle at all times. e-Power’s prices consequently remain considerably lower than a fully electric vehicle," said José Román, President, Nissan Mexicana.