International Correspondents

Second life for Nissan Leaf batteries at solar power plant

The Nissan Leaf electric car was launched in 2010 and has been gaining popularity ever since. However, one implication of the success of the Leaf and other electric vehicles has been the throughput of valuable resources needed to make each battery. To compound the issue, the battery has a useful lifespan of about 100,000 km, at which stage it has lost about 30% of it’s capacity.

Nissan have now launched a collaboration to try and address this second issue. In conjunction with Sumitomo, the company has announced a highly innovative method of prolonging the useful lifespan of the battery, by re-using them (virtually as is) for the storage of electricity produced by mega-solar farm facilities.

On the island of Yumeshima in western Japan, batteries from used Nissan Leaf electric cars have been reused to store electricity created by the 36,000 solar panels, which have been built on a disused landfill site. The facility can produce up to 10 megawatts of electricity which is either fed into the power grid or now, in this global first pilot project, is stored in banks of 16 used EV batteries. In conjunction, the two companies have engineered a method of electricity management to ensure that maximum battery capacity is utilised. More information about this project can be seen in the video below:

This project is one of several created by the “4R Energy Corporation”, which is a joint venture between Nissan and Sumitomo. “4R”, which stands for “Re-use”, “Re-sell”, “Re-Fabricate” and “Recycle”, is aimed at developing effective uses for the used car batteries. Products currently offered by the company include

  • home-use battery systems, for those houses equipped with panels or wind turbines, which can be used to power your home or electric car
  • industrial use battery systems, for production facilities equipped with solar panels or wind turbines, which can be used as a backup power source or at times when the panels or turbines are not generating electricity
  • batteries for refrigerated delivery vehicles which would normally use a standard fossil fuel engine to power the refrigeration unit

The company’s vision is to continue to develop solutions which leverage the approximately 70% remaining capacity of a used Nissan Leaf car battery after it has served its useful life as a car power source. Its target is that by 2020, it will be able to provide energy storage solutions for at least 50,000 EV batteries per year. More information about the 4R Energy Corporate (Japanese only) can be found here.

Renewable energy plus battery systems are growing in sophistication and popularity, most recently with Tesla’s announcement of a domestic solution, and Rocky Mountain Institute’s report that found such systems could help create more resilient energy networks.


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The Author

Colin Silvester

Colin Silvester

Colin was born in Portsmouth, England, and enjoyed his childhood in the natural beauty of the south coast countryside. He studied Computer Science at Hull University and it was during the summer break of his second year, in 1993, that he first travelled to Japan. There he completed a 3 month internship in KDD's AI research division. Curious to learn more about the country, Colin returned to Japan after graduating from Hull and was a “JET” (Assistant Language Teacher on the “Japan Exchange and Teaching” programme) for 3 years in the suburban prefecture of Saitama. Colin then spent a short time at JAC Recruitment until he decided to return to his core profession of IT, joining Bloomberg in Tokyo. After 3 very enjoyable years there, Colin joined a small US telecommunications company, IPC Information Systems, shortly after it established its direct presence in Tokyo. After 12 very informative years (which included 2 years spent at IPC's headquarters in New Jersey), Colin returned to JAC Recruitment, where he is now CIO, responsible for the company's overall technology strategy.

Outside of work, Colin enjoys squash and cycling, touring Japan on his Triumph motorbike, drumming and also DIY. Colin has long been passionate about minimising the impact of humans on the environment and in 2010, Colin and his family realised their dream when they moved into their newly built “eco-house” which Colin and his wife designed with the help of Sumitomo Ringyo. The house is highly energy efficient through extensive use of the latest insulation technology, gas filled glass, LED lighting (approximately 80{8b0f3a7b3eacfe1804507280dbfc7f5f2ba1d5417cdd881cfa7a48d820f01dd7} of the house uses LED) and 4.1kw of solar panels and as a result, the house is a net producer of electricity.

Colin's long term ambition is to build and run a “British pub” in the fantastic surroundings of the mountains in Nagano!

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