Plug-in vehicle people have never been good at waiting. When the major car makers told them the idea wouldn’t fly in the marketplace, they went out and converted leaders at General Motors and Nissan.
With the Volt and the LEAF selling all the cars with plugs they can get to showroom floors, it looks like the plug-in vehicle people were right.
Storage at scale for renewable energy remains at arm’s length. Most experts in battery technology are hesitantly optimistic: There will be storage at scale, though not right now.
Here come those pesky plug-in vehicle people again.
Nissan is partnering with power and automation multinational powerhouse ABB, 4R Energy, and Sumitomo Corporation of America to start proving the long-heralded possibility of recycling LEAF lithium-ion battery packs for renewables storage.
The project prepares what, at scale, would perfectly solve two challenges for plug-in cars.
First, it answers the question of what to do with plug-in car batteries when they are replaced. They are expected to last about ten years and be replaced with a 70 percent recharge capability remaining. Ten years out, and from then on, those batteries could -- considering the number of cars likely to be using them by then -- present a big and growing waste issue. But stacked and grid-tied, they could be a cumulative source of instantly dispatchable electricity to support grid operations.
Second, the electricity they could store could be from the sun and wind and other variable, renewable sources. That would allow more use of renewables-generated electricity for all grid-tied consumers. It would also make it easier to use renewables-generated electricity to run plug-in cars.
The Nissan team plans to develop a LEAF battery storage prototype with a capacity of at least 50 kilowatt-hours, enough to supply 15 average homes with electricity for two hours. It is expected to run a few months with the goal of developing a storage device for “commoditization.”
Studies of the potential of recycled lithium-ion batteries have been ongoing at Department of Energy laboratories and in academia for some years.
Nissan and ABB say they expect to develop pilot projects with utilities in the next two years. If those plug-in car people will wait.