Another look at EV battery reuse

LEAF battery module

There are plans for battery life after use in your EV

Back in September, we briefly touched on Nissan’s plan to Reuse, Refabricate, Resell, or Recycle used LEAF batteries. While Nissan may have some idea of what their plans are, what of the industry in general? What thoughts have been turned this way?

California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) has announced a partnership with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to study potential uses of electric vehicle (EV) batteries that can no longer serve in their primary capacity as an EV energy storage device, but may serve well in other capacities. These other possibilities include residential and commercial power management. For instance, three LEAF battery packs depleted by 50% would still maintain 12 kilowatt-hours of energy storage each. If three battery packs were linked together, this would provide 36 kilowatt hours of energy storage. One possible advantage of this type of arrangement could be some residual value being applied to the battery pack, that the consumer could then use toward a replacement battery pack.

Another aspect to be studied will be the potential of the used EV battery packs to provide power grid stabilization capability, according to NREL. Wind and solar energy for instance, could benefit by having greater storage capacity to hold unused power to redistribute it as it is needed. The University of San Diego has agreed to deploy re-purposed EV batteries when no longer usable in their initial application. The study will look at battery life, recommendations for battery design, an evaluation of regulatory needs and assessment of economic benefits.

While no one in the automotive industry, including Nissan, is willing to provide the cost of their batteries, some clues can easily be found. The Tesla Model S sedan will be available with three different driving ranges – and three dramatically different prices. The base Model S will have a range of 160 miles and will cost $57,400 (less any available tax credits). An upgraded battery offering an extra 70 miles (230 mile range) will add roughly $10,000. The initial offering from Tesla will be the top of the line 300 mile range Model S will be roughly an additional $20,000. From this example, it can be seen that, in the case of the Tesla Model S, 140 miles of range costs roughly $20,000. The math comes out to about $142 per mile of range. Taking Nissan’s own range estimate of 100 miles, using these numbers, the cost of the LEAF battery pack would come to over $14,000. J.D. Power estimates today’s lithium-ion battery cost at $750 to $800 per kilowatt hour. This would equate to a current LEAF battery pack price of $18,000 to $19,200. Without a doubt, as production scales up, and manufacturing costs come down, the cost of a replacement battery will be significantly less in 5 to 10 years. And there are those of us that will continue to be satisfied driving our car less than 50 miles per day on the original battery and motoring along just fine. We have said before that a car is a tool. Every tool has a specific job. When chosen properly, and used as designed, any tool should be able to provide years of virtually trouble-free life. That is what we look for from our LEAF.

This entry was posted in Battery/Charging Experience, Driving Range, Incentives, Industry News, Is the Nissan LEAF right for me?, LEAF 101, LEAF Information, LEAF Ownership, Other EVs. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Another look at EV battery reuse

  1. Warren says:

    “some clues can easily be found”

    You mean like the $750-$800 retail price of a 1 kWh E-bike pack from Li Ping? They have been selling these for several years. And that includes the BMS and charger.

    I’m guessing Nissan’s claim of $375 per kWh is closer to the actual cost.

    • Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) says:

      Nissan has never said what the batteries cost. In April of last year, the London Times reported in this article that the cost to produce the battery was £6,000 according to a Nissan executive in Tokyo. At the then current exchange rate, this would come out to about the $375 per kilowatt hour that you mention. As you know, there is a significant difference between cost of production, and retail cost. Nissan may in fact be able to produce the battery pack in its current form for $375 per kilowatt hour, but the retail cost of the battery will be higher. How much higher is what Nissan has refused to state. Warehousing and shipping of a 660 pound battery pack is not inexpensive – especially when there is just one source that needs to supply the entire world initially. Ultimately, factories will exist in many countries building batteries. That day is a long way off. Even then, the United States is a large country geographically. Batteries from Smyrna, Tennessee, the only domestic source, will need to supply the entire country. That warehousing and distribution cost needs to be accounted for.

  2. Warren says:

    “there is a significant difference between cost of production, and retail cost”

    Yes. And $18,000 would be quite a bit to ask for a replacement pack. They would have a captive market initially. But if they want their cars to have a good resale value, they may need to keep the price closer to cost.

    And to avoid an after-market for Chinese battery swap shops. 🙂

    • Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) says:

      Warren, you bring up a good point. Ultimately, there will be an aftermarket for EV batteries, just as there is for other vehicle components. Also, replacement batteries, by definition, will not be required for many years (excluding accidents). So with the ramp up of production, reduced manufacturing costs, production being localized to the US, and the possible development of third-party provided batteries, it is very likely that by the time we need to replace our batteries, they will cost less than today.

  3. indyflick says:

    Today you can purchase Thundersky as well as Sky Energy LiFePo4 batteries for roughly $416 per Kilowatt hour. This is the price to a customer, quantity one. Given that, I would conclude the retail price of a LEAF pack today should be no more than $10K. But we won’t be buying whole new packs in the future. We’ll be buying remanufactured individual modules for our packs. We’ll also be paid for our old modules, because they’ll still have value.

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