Nissan has begun a program to refurbish battery packs from its first-generation Leaf EV in a bid to make it cheaper to keep the cars on the road for the long term.
According to Reuters, the automaker has partnered with Sumitomo to open a new factory in Namie, Japan, a town on the country's east coast hit hard by the earthquake that caused the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown.
Working together as 4R Energy Corporation, the companies bring in batteries whose storage capacity has fallen below 80 percent and replace faulty cells. It's a process the companies say lets them sell a refreshed Leaf battery pack for about half the price of a new one.
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"By reusing spent EV batteries, we want to raise the (residual) value of EVs and make them more accessible,” said Eiji Makino, CEO of 4R, at the Monday opening of its new factory.
4R has developed a new process for analyzing a battery's performance that takes four hours, rather than the 16 days it used to take Nissan engineers to do the same thing.
Only batteries that can be refurbished to the point of holding at least 80 percent of their original capacity make the cut; lesser ones end up powering fork lifts, golf carts and even street lights.
4R says it will eventually be able to process 2,250 batteries per year, and is also investigating whether it can remanufacture the battery packs from the recently-launched second-generation Leaf.
Toyota is also looking into a battery recycling program of its own as industry analysts predict a spike in prices for key EV battery materials, like cobalt, nickel and lithium.