Written by Theo König – October 05, 2021
Reviewed by Asaf Kedem
10 years after the launch of the iconic LEAF, the Nissan Motor Corporation is now beginning its process of “refabricating, recycling, reselling and reusing” the batteries of their electric vehicles.
In December 2010, Nissan partnered with the import/export Sumitomo Corporation to create the 4R Energy Corporation. The goal? Put used Nissan batteries to use to power things, rather than dismantle them for scrap value. 4R Energy CEO, Eiji Makino, believes that "simply recycling an old car for scrap metal wouldn't be good enough."
At the 4R Energy plant in Namie, Japan, old batteries begin their new lives by undergoing a grading assessment. Batteries that obtain a grade “A” status are considered in good enough condition to simply be reused in battery units for new EVs. “B” grade units are still considered capable enough to power vehicles, albeit smaller and with much lower range requirements. These include, for instance, forklifts for large machinery as well as automated guided vehicles that have become ever-more present in modern factories. “B” grade units are also to be used in the home or commercial settings to store surplus energy generated by solar panels. The challenge begins with the “C” level batteries. Although largely diminished incapacity, these can still be put to use. Currently, 4R Energy is considering the possibility of using these weakened batteries as backup power sources for power outages. One such possibility would be at grocery stores, which must have refrigerators running even in times of electricity grid failures.
Going past all these practical aspects, Nissan hopes that the 4R Energy program will help reduce the overall cost of ownership of electric vehicles to customers. “Owners don't have to sell their old car just for scrap but can get much higher value for its battery, which results in a nice end-of-life return on their investment” according to Nissan.
Finally, the company has not shied away from more ambitious programs. Currently, on the manmade island of Yumeshima, 4R Energy has installed lithium-ion batteries on a solar farm built atop a landfill owned by the Sumitomo Corporation.
Currently, 4R Energy estimates that most batteries recovered from their EVs have a life span of about 10 to 15 years.
Auto Trendy’s take:
The project, although already 10 years down the line, is still in its stages of infancy. However, with the electric vehicle industry taking off at a remarkable rate, it won’t be long before 4R Energy will be overwhelmed with batteries, and the truly innovative programs, similar to those happening on the island of Yumeshima, can begin. It’s truly great to see that some companies are already starting to work on reworking, recycling, and reusing goals.