Nissan Opens Plant to Give Second Life to Lithium-ion Batteries

- March 28th, 2018

4R Energy, a joint venture between Nissan and Sumitomo, will sell rebuilt replacement lithium-ion batteries for the first-generation Leaf.

Japanese carmaker Nissan Motor (TSE:7201) has opened a plant to give lithium-ion batteries new life after they pass their peak performance, the company announced earlier this week.

4R Energy, a joint venture between Nissan and Sumitomo (TSE:8053), will start selling rebuilt replacement lithium-ion batteries for the first-generation Leaf in May. The batteries will be produced at the new factory in Namie.

“By reusing spent EV batteries, we wanted to raise the (residual) value of EVs and make them more accessible,” Eiji Makino, CEO of 4R, told Reuters.

The new plant can process 2,250 battery packs a year, and they will cost 300,000 yen each — half the price of brand-new replacement batteries. Nissan will initially offer 24-kilowatt-hour refabricated batteries, with plans to expand the lineup.

According to the company, 4R has developed a system that quickly measures the performance of used batteries, and it plans to apply this technology to batteries collected from all over Japan.

Initially, the plan is to refabricate “a few hundred” units annually. 4R will see whether the process can also be used for batteries from the latest Leaf model, which uses a different battery chemistry.

Nissan’s move comes at a time when carmakers are looking to decrease costs by reusing and recycling batteries, as prices for key elements in lithium-ion batteries continue to surge.

Makino said it would be difficult for 4R to completely break down and recycle electric vehicle (EV) batteries on its own, but it may consider partnering with another company to retrieve reusable materials.

“Second use is potentially a really great option, but at the end of it all, batteries still need to be recycled,” said Jeff Spangenberger, energy systems researcher at the Argonne National Laboratory, adding that the profitability of battery recycling operations will depend on the volatile prices of component materials.

Nissan continues to seek ways to regain the lead in the electric vehicle market, as more competitors join the race. The Japanese carmaker is aiming to sell 1 million new energy vehicles by 2023. It also plans to develop eight pure EVs and introduce 20 electrified models by 2022 in China, the world’s biggest market.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article. 

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