Nissan explores green charging stations for its Leaf

Automaker looking to take advantage of used batteries from scrapped electric cars

July 11, 2011   by The Canadian Press

YOKOHAMA, Japan—Nissan is testing a way to recharge its Leaf electric vehicle using solar power.

The automaker is examining if aging Leaf vehicles may offer alternative business opportunities by using their lithium-ion batteries to store electricity.

Nissan Motor Corp. says once the Leaf catches on, a flood of used batteries could result as the life span of a battery is longer than vehicles they power.

Even after a Leaf is scrapped, its battery is likely to retain 80 per cent of its capacity, enough to store the equivalent of two days of household electricity use, Nissan says.

In the new charging system, electricity is generated through 488 solar cells installed on the roof of the company’s headquarters building in Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo.

Four batteries from the Leaf are placed in a box, storing the electricity generated from the solar cells – enough to fully charge 1,800 Leaf vehicles a year, according to Nissan.

Although interest in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power is at an all-time high, storing the electricity generated from those sources has been a major challenge.

Other Japanese automakers, such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., are working on similar projects, such as linking hybrids with solar-equipped homes as part of energy-efficient communities called “smart grids.”

A joint venture with Sumitomo Corp. plans to offer electricity storage systems like the one at Nissan headquarters for business and public facilities as a commercial product by 2016.

Nissan hopes to start selling such storage systems for regular homes by April 2012.

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