Kimiko Kidd
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Nissan Gives EV Batteries a New Lease on Life

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Nissan Leaf Charging
Photo: Nissan

Thanks to the success of the LEAF, Nissan is one of the leading producers of mass-market EVs. But what will become of all those used EV batteries? Nissan created a smart, sustainable answer to that question.

When automakers bring electric vehicles to market, they’re applauded for going green. But putting EVs on the road is only part of the equation. Car battery packs don’t last forever, and in order to make the automotive industry more sustainable, it’s important for companies to develop ways to responsibly manage old batteries. Nissan recognized this, and before the LEAF even hit the streets, the automaker teamed up with Sumitomo Corp. to create 4R Energy Corp., a firm dedicated to using old EV batteries as power sources.

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A new job for old batteries

Nissan 4R Recycling Program
Photo: Nissan

Normally, used EV batteries are broken down for scraps — even if they have a lot of mileage left in them. That’s why 4R Energy Corp. is working on a way to reuse, resell, and recycle these powerplants, so they can go on to power other products.

4R Energy CEO Eiji Makino wants EVs to be as sustainable as possible. “We knew that when it came to an EV, the recycling solution had to be much cleverer than the norm and have distinct benefits for EV owners,” he stated, further explaining that his vision for a sustainable future went far beyond simply recycling a vehicle for scrap metal.

The first LEAF EVs are about to reach their 10-year anniversary. While they were developed to be resilient, every car component, including the battery, wears out after a while. 4R Energy Corp. grades these batteries and puts them back to work.

Top-tier batteries get an A — and a chance to power another EV. B-grade batteries get a second life in industrial work, powering forklifts or serving as worksite power providers. Even batteries that earn a C can serve as power backups, to help operations run smoothly during power outages. For instance, grocery stores, which rely on electricity to provide refrigeration, can switch to EV battery power if the grid goes out. That can minimize the amount of food waste that occurs during outages — which is another boon for the environment.

4R Energy Corp. also aims to pioneer technology that enables drivers to turn their EVs into backup generators for their homes, in case of power outages.

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Makino hopes this market for used EV batteries will help drivers recoup the higher cost of purchasing an EV. He reasons, if drivers know they can sell the battery at the end of their EVs life, they may be more comfortable making the investment in an electrified model.