Nissan gives first-gen Leaf EV batteries new life in robot helpers
Nissan began producing the first generation Leaf battery electric car at its Oppama plant in 2010, and has now giving old battery packs from those vehicles a second life in automated guided vehicles at the factory.
The robotic haulers follow a predetermined path around the factory floor thanks to magnetic tracks to deliver components to workers so that they don't have to wander away looking for a missing part, and can focus on the job at hand. The Oppama plant has more than 700 of these automated guided vehicles (AGVs) in operation, and more than 4,000 running in factories around the globe.
These delivery bots were originally powered by lead-acid batteries that needed replacing every year, but Nissan reports that about eight years ago, engineers managed to take lithium ion battery modules from the 24-kWh battery pack at the heart of the first generation Leaf, and repackage them for use in the AGVs.
Those were new batteries though. Now the company has begun using repurposed modules that still have life in them, but can no longer efficiently power an electric car. The repurposed battery modules are expected to last seven to eight years in the AGVs.
Charging stations are located at key points throughout the factory, and as the AGVs zip around the factory floor, they briefly stop for a quick top up. The idea being that their batteries will get more and more charge as they stop at charging stations strategically positioned along the route.
Nissan is now looking at ways to retire the magnetic tracks in favor of more advanced autonomous navigation systems for the AGVs.
Of course Nissan is not the only automotive company looking to find a good use for second life batteries, Renault, Volvo, BMW and others have also looked at ways to re-use batteries from electric vehicles. But there's something quite poetic about using old EV batteries to power bots that help in the manufacture of new electric cars.