Nissan Motor has announced plans that it will remarket used lithium-ion batteries from its soon-to-launch Leaf electric car to solar-powered generators and other secondary customers.
With this announcement – the first of its kind – Nissan is looking to bring down the high cost of owning a zero-emission vehicle.
At the end of the car’s normal driving life of 10 years, Nissan projects its 24 kW/h NEC batteries will still retain 70 to 80 percent of their capacity. Even with that diminished performance, Nissan said the heavy-duty batteries could still prove valuable as energy-storage units for household and even smaller-scale commercial power generation.
Launching a joint venture with Sumitomo, a Japanese trading and investment company, Nissan hopes that its ‘second-life’ battery business will allow it to gain high residual values for the batteries, thus bringing the price down for consumers.
“We are taking the most expensive part of the electric vehicle – the battery – and adding value that can be returned to the customer,” said Toshiyuki Shiga, Nissan’s chief operating officer.
Pauline Kee, a spokesperson at Nissan Motor, added: “Really, the whole intent is to keep the residual value of the battery at the high end, so that the consumer does not have to bear the burden of the cost of the entire battery, which is still at a rather high entry point at this point in time.”
Leasing as a sales tool
Kee, who could not confirm what price the batteries would cost, said that the car manufacturer is looking primarily at two sales models.
The first is where Nissan would lease the battery separately from the car itself. This model, which will be used in most markets, allows Nissan to lower its initial leasing charges, thanks to the prospect of generating strong residual values for the power units.
Alternatively, in markets where the battery must be sold along with the car, drivers could expect to eventually recoup some of the cost in the second-hand market.
For example, in Japan Nissan expects high demand for second-life batteries for applications such as residential or industrial energy storage, back-up power supplies, or even load levelling, where the batteries could be used to adjust output to meet rises and falls in demand.
Although there is currently no such supply of large-capacity reusable batteries, Nissan expects that in Japan, demand for ‘second-life’ batteries will reach the equivalent of 50,000 electric car batteries by 2020 as demand grows for an increasing range of energy-storage solutions.
“Second-life batteries present an ideal solution to the renewable-energy sector, allowing energy to be stored for later use,” Kee explained.
Despite the initiative first being launched in Japan and the US by late 2010, Kee confirmed that Nissan was also actively exploring the European market.
“We obviously have our alliance partner, Renault, in Europe, a market which is absolutely critical for us. Although the scope of our study doesn’t involve Europe yet, the same economics apply to our business whether in Europe, Japan or the US,” she said.