Born Again? Where Old Electric Car Batteries Don't Go to Die

By Rob Clymo on at

Japanese car companies dream up fantastic ideas if you’re looking for something brilliant, but borderline bonkers that’ll grab the headlines. Driving a full-size real-life remote control GTR, Nissan’s mindblowing sports rocket ship, for example, might seem like a ludicrous concept but we got a chance to do just that late last year. And, it works. The car is unmanned, loaded with tech and capable of going full out. The only difference is you’re not in the car itself.

You sit in a Nissan Qashqai holding a PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controller and gingerly nurse the driverless sports 2+2 around an oval. Right button gives you the gas, while the left button applies the brakes. Jan Mardenborough, one of the most successful winners of Nissan’s GT Academy, did the same thing from a helicopter and lapped Silverstone in 1:17:47. The GT-R/C averaged 76mph and reached a top speed of 131mph.

What’s that got to do with electric car batteries? Nowt really, but it illustrates perfectly what Nissan is trying to do with its innovation philosophy. Nothing is impossible as far as the Japanese car giant is concerned. Which is probably why the company has spent the last couple of years developing a new green initiative that will join up the dots between owning an electric car and powering the home with spare battery power.

The idea seems nearly as good as the hugely addictive ePedal in the new 2018 Nissan LEAF. Being able to control acceleration and regenerative braking with one pedal is a masterstroke. It just works. However, the excellence of the new LEAF makes its predecessor look a little jaded, even though the original model was groundbreaking when it first appeared in Europe back in 2011 and many of those are still going strong.

One is apparently being used as a taxi in the West Country and refuses to die. The interior might have witnessed more drunks and their associated vomit than you care to shake a sick bag at, but this particular LEAF is still on its original battery as it heads towards a second time around the clock. And, even though some other original incarnation LEAFs are nearing their end of days, their batteries will live on.

Nissan has had a bright idea for repurposing these old electric car battery components as part of its innovative new xStorage system. The idea has been bubbling under for a couple of years and now, as part of the new Nissan Energy Solar brand, there will be a collection of new products including solar panels and a core home battery for storing all that juice.

The idea is similar to Tesla’s Powerwall, which is already into its second generation. Both take excess energy produced during the day and allow you to then tap into it at night, providing a practical solution to balancing out your energy requirements. Nissan is going to offer two variants; one will feature shiny new lithium-ion batteries while the other ‘Second Life’ edition will use reconditioned battery units from retired LEAFs.

The reconditioned batteries still have around 75% of their original capacity, so they’re far from finished, which means that they make the perfect core component of a home storage unit. On the face of it, the xStorage Home idea is brilliantly simple, allowing the unit to store energy at the most economical times of the day and also discharge excess power to the grid, particularly at peak times when demand for energy is at its highest.

The idea isn’t just for domestic use either as Nissan thinks xStorage could be perfect for business needs too. Nissan has partnered with Eaton, a company itself that has been innovating in power management for 100 years, to develop the xStorage system. The collaboration also has xStorage Buildings planned for companies to exploit the green energy initiative. So not only will the system save consumers money, it should also be able to do the same for business users too.

Another added bonus with the system is that it means you’ll never be left in the dark if there’s a power cut. Granted, the concept isn’t quite as exciting as something like Nissan’s awesome remote control GTR. In fact, it’s an incredibly sensible idea and fits in perfectly alongside the green credentials of the new LEAF.

Admittedly, you’ll need nearly eight grand to get yourself kitted out with six solar panels and an xStorage home battery pack, so it’s not bargain-basement either. Nevertheless, if you’re looking to do your bit and keep those batteries going – Nissan has more than 260,000 electric vehicles worldwide so there’s no shortage – then the xStorage option is one to seriously consider.