Everyone on board!
Japanese companies Nissan, 4R Energy Corporation and East Japan Railway Company (JR East) have launched a trial using repurposed Nissan Leaf electric vehicle (EV) batteries on a level crossing in Japan.
To be used as an emergency power supply in events such as blackouts and maintenance work, the used lithium ion battery pack of the door replaces the lead batteries normally installed on the crossing.
The particular intersection used in this process is the Atago intersection on the Jōban line, which runs through the city of Minamisoma in Fukushima prefecture.
Coming into operation in 2010, 4R Energy Corporation receives thousands of used Nissan Leaf batteries for electric vehicles every year.
At the end of its road life, Nissan says the Leaf’s lithium-ion battery still retains between 60 and 80 percent of its electricity storage capacity.
These used lithium ion battery modules are analyzed and classified for their future purpose.
According to Nissan, the higher “A-rank” battery modules have sufficient performance and can be used as a replacement battery for electric vehicles, while the “B-rank” modules have a lower load capacity and can be used for the battery. stationary solutions.
‘C-rank’ modules can only be used for applications with lower load capacity than ‘B-rank’, as a backup battery just like those used in the railway crossing test.
Nissan says reused battery life averages 10 years, compared to three to seven years for a lead-acid battery, and it can be charged in a third of the time.
“With lead-acid batteries, we have to periodically visit level crossings to check the state of charge and any deterioration,” said Kaito Tochihara, assistant chief researcher at JR East.
“However, with the reused lithium-ion batteries, a control system, similar to an electric vehicle, is connected so that you can remotely check the status of the battery. This should lead to better maintenance standards. “
“This system also allows preventative maintenance by informing us of the status of the battery before its voltage becomes too low.”
The work required to initiate this test at the Atago crossing began in January 2021, with the intention of testing repurposed EV batteries in other rail crossings on the Jōban and Mito lines in the future.
“If we can confirm, in this process, that reused batteries are safe for use on the railways, then I think we can expect this initiative to be expanded,” said Tochihara.
“For example, in wireless communication equipment.”
There is one problem that threatens the success of this process, which is lightning.
Traditionally, if lightning strikes an electric vehicle, electricity flows to the ground through the vehicle’s body. This sudden abnormal high voltage prevents it from flowing into the battery pack.
However, the reused electric vehicle batteries found at the railway crossing are connected by cables to devices such as barriers, alarms and control equipment.
If lightning strikes nearby, voltage can potentially flow directly into the battery through those connected cables.
To withstand such current spikes, changes have reportedly been made to the battery control infrastructure under development.
The revived EV batteries at the Atago intersection are currently facing their first autumn in Japan, which Tochihara is looking forward to.
“There are a lot of thunderstorms and typhoons in the fall,” Tochihara said.
“We will continue to analyze the performance of the batters, based on the promising initial results. We will also use the feedback from those who maintain the level crossings, making them safer to use. “
Nissan has beaten a host of rival brands in the electric vehicle market with its leafy hatchback, and is finally giving the model a sequel.
The brand’s new Ariya electric SUV is expected to begin mass production by the end of March 2022.
It’s built on a new platform, will offer a choice of single-engine front-wheel drive or dual-engine all-wheel drive variants, and will come with 65kWh or 90kWh battery packs.
The company has also overhauled its Tochigi facility with new standalone manufacturing processes that will become the model for its future sites.
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