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Nissan’s stylish street lamp puts old EV batteries back to work

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Automakers are increasingly looking at ways to make use of so-called “second-life” batteries that are removed from electric vehicles (EVs) once their storage capacity falls below a certain level. Despite degrading to a point where they’re no longer suitable for automotive use, the lithium-ion battery packs often still have usable capacity, allowing companies to explore various uses to prolong their life. Nissan, together with its affiliate 4R Energy Corporation, this week unveiled the “Reborn Light,” a solar-powered street lamp that uses old EV batteries from its electric Leaf car to store excess energy.

The 4.2-meter-tall light, which sports a rather striking design when you compare it to regular street lamps, holds the battery in its base, while the solar panel sit at the top, just above the LED light. The system is off-grid, so if a disaster like an earthquake knocks out the central power supply for a populated area, Nissan’s lights can keep on burning brightly, helping communities to continue navigating the streets through the dark nights. As part of a trial, the Japanese automaker is planning to install the Reborn Light in Namie, a town devastated by the 2011 Tohoku disaster that included the meltdown at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Should the trial prove successful, Nissan believes its technology has huge potential, with lighting just the first step in a number of possible applications for its aging EV batteries. “Still today, 17 percent of the world’s population live without electricity,” the company says on its website. “Reused EV battery and lighting have the potential to change the lives of people in Japan and the world.” It adds: “Even when batteries no longer serve to power cars, they can be reborn to keep serving humans.”

Nissan is by no means the only automaker to be exploring uses for older EV batteries.

BMW, for example, used 2,600 used EV battery modules from 100 cars to build a 2.8-mWh storage system at a charging station in Hamburg, Germany, which can be used as an energy source for peak demand periods.

And Renault has also put them to use on its so-called “smart island” in Portugal.

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