At a small plant meant to help revitalize a town devastated by the 2011 earthquake, Nissan Motor is providing its costly electric vehicle (EV) batteries new life as they pass their peak performance.
International automakers are finding ways to make cheaper EVs and extend the life of their batteries, which can represent up to one-fifth of each vehicle’s cost and are made from progressively costly materials, consisting cobalt and nickel.
Beginning in May, 4R Energy Corporation, a joint venture between the Nissan and Sumitomo Corp is going to start selling rebuilt replacement lithium-ion batteries for the first-generation Leaf.
The batteries are going to be produced at the new factory in Namie by reassembling high-performing modules eliminated from batteries whose entire energy capacity has decreased below 80 percent.
They will be sold in Japan for 300,000 yen ($2,855.51), easily half the price of new replacement batteries for the world’s earliest and best selling mass-marketed all-battery electric vehicle.
“By reusing spent EV batteries, we aimed to raise the (residual) value of EVs and make them more accessible,” stated Eiji Makino, CEO of 4R, which on Monday opened the plant in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, about 5 kilometers north of the location of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the world’s worst since Chernobyl in 1986.
The flat, rectangular battery packs that line the bottom of each Leaf chassis are trucked into the site, where each module is evaluated.
Sumitomo has come up with a way to evaluate all 48 modules contained in each battery pack in four hours, a big time savings from the 16 days Nissan engineers earlier used for similar measurements.
Modules with capacities over 80 percent are designated for use in replacement Leaf batteries; lesser modules are reassembled and sold as batteries for fork lifts, golf carts, and lower-energy applications like streetlamps.
The plant can process 2,250 battery packs annually, and initially prepares to refabricate “a few hundred” units on yearly basis, Makino stated, adding that 4R would see if the process could also be utilized for batteries from the latest Leaf model, which utilizes a different battery chemistry.