One of the usual charges laid against the electric car relates to the problem of what to do with the batteries once they can no longer be used in the vehicles for which they were designed. The potential for recycling has been discussed for some time. However, leading power and automation group ABB (NYSE:ABB) has just announced a partnership with 4R Energy, Nissan (OTCPK:NSANY) via its North American subsidiary and Sumitomo Corporation (OTCPK:SSUMY) also via its North American subsidiary, to evaluate the reuse of the lithium-ion battery packs that power the Nissan LEAF.
According to the ABB / Nissan partnership group, lithium-ion batteries for EVs have up to 70 percent capacity remaining after 10 years of use in an automotive application. This longevity allows them to be used beyond the lifetime of the vehicle for applications such as a smart-grid community energy management systems or battery energy storage.
Consequently, the partnership plans to develop a LEAF battery storage prototype with a capacity of at least 50 kilowatt hours (kWh), enough to supply 15 average homes with electricity for two hours.
“The agreement will allow us to evaluate the commercial viability of a grid storage solution and develop a prototype to effectively reuse Nissan LEAF batteries,” said Bruno Melles, head of ABB's Medium Voltage power products business.
Ken Srebnik, Senior Manager, Nissan North America Corporate Planning added “It’s important to Nissan that we manage the complete lifecycle of the electric vehicle battery pack, even beyond its use in a Nissan car….. Innovations in energy storage systems are becoming more viable as the electric grid gets smarter’.
This is clearly not a development that is going to affect the market for EVs in the short term. However, over the medium to long term the benefits of any success in this area are clear:
- A solution to the recycling question
- Future demand for used EV batteries for energy storage would help establish a re-sale value for the batteries and improve the economics of EV ownership
- This would be particularly true for ownership models such as that proposed by Renault and Better Place whereby the battery is owned by the manufacturer and merely leased to the EV owner. The establishment of a resale value for the batteries would clearly bring down EV battery lease charges.
4R Energy Corporation is a joint venture of Nissan and Sumitomo Corporation.
Disclosure: I am long TSLA.