As thousands of Nissan Leaf electric vehicles hit the road, its creators are scheming ways to use their batteries to store energy captured from renewable sources like solar and wind after the average life of the cars.
The lithium-ion batteries in the Leaf are expected to function at 70 percent of their original capacity after 10 years, which is about how long most cars stay on the road. That means the batteries will outlive the cars they’re in, said Ken Srebnik, senior manager of corporate planning for Nissan North America.
“We wanted to insure these batteries don’t end up in a landfill,” Srebnik said, “or something else that doesn’t make sense.”
Since the Leaf was in development, Nissan has been thinking about what it could do with the batteries after the cars come off the roads.
“We had to look at how we could safely recycle them,” Srebnik said. “But we wanted to look beyond recycling."
While the batteries will be operating at about 70 percent of their peak performance after 10 years on the road, they’ll still be valuable and could easily store energy. Renewable energy generation and storage is one of the more obvious and useful second-life applications for the batteries, Srebnik said.
“It would make sense for them to look at adding additional battery storage,” Srebnik said.
He said some small communities might consider adding battery storage, especially 10 years from now when electric vehicles are more common and renewable energy generation is more common. It could serve as back-up power or could store power produced during off-peak times for times of day when demand is higher.
Srebnik said the batteries could also be applied in smaller solar and wind farms to mitigate intermittency issues.
Srebnik said he’s talked with renewable energy leaders in states with some of the most aggressive energy programs like California, Hawaii and New Jersey and believes their will be a second-life market for the batteries in the energy storage world.
“Of course, I’m not going to have a supply of batteries for a while,” Srebnik said.