Electric cars are bound to become more popular as the cost of fossil fuels increases, but these cars won’t last forever. That’s especially true of the batteries, which you might need to replace before the rest of the car. So, what can companies do with those old batteries? Nissan is working on a plan to repurpose them for street lighting.
Nissan’s “The Reborn Light” initiative uses old batteries from the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle to ease the burden on Japan’s electrical grid. The Leaf sports a 40kWh battery that can carry the vehicle about 150 miles (241 kilometers) on a charge. An electric car battery needs to be in top shape, but you don’t need quite so much juice to power a street light. Thus, a recycled Leaf battery can continue being useful after it’s no longer suitable for a car. In addition, you can’t just toss lithium-ion batteries in the trash. You need to do something with old batteries. It’s easier to split up the cells and use them in lights than break them all the way down to easily disposable materials.
The street lights designed for use in The Reborn Light project by Nissan subsidiary 4R Energy Corporation. The former car battery lives in the base of the light, powering an array of high-efficiency LEDs at the top. The battery recharges each day, but it’s not plugged into the electrical grid. Instead, Nissan uses solar panels on the light to ready the batteries for night time. The brightness of these lights is reportedly on par with traditional grid-powered street lights.
Currently, Nissan is running a pilot program for The Reborn Light project in Namie, Japan. That town was completely abandoned following the Fukushima nuclear disaster several years ago. Residents are only now being allowed back into the area, but there’s a lot of rebuilding to do. Adding solar-powered lights with recycled car batteries means one less infrastructure project locals need to manage.
The nice thing about this project is that as we get more electric vehicles on the road, we eventually end up with more efficient self-powered street lights. Nissan hopes to begin full-scale deployment of these off-grid lights later in 2018. That will, of course, depend on the success of the pilot program. This may only be the first step in re-using old EV batteries, too. Nissan has toyed with building residential battery systems and public mobile device chargers from EV cells.
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