FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) - Nissan North America Inc. and energy researchers have their sights set on other uses for the lithium-ion battery packs in the all-electric Leaf after they can no longer power the car.

Nissan said that when the battery packs no longer have enough power for the Leaf, likely after about a decade, they will still have about 70% of their capacity left.

Franklin-based Nissan and partners - Switzerland-based ABB, 4R Energy of Japan and Sumitomo Corp. of America - plan to develop a battery-storage system that could provide up to 50 kilowatt-hours of electricity. That would power about 15 homes for up to two hours.

Nissan spokeswoman Katherine Zachary told The Tennessean that a study will look at possibly using them as reserve systems for hospitals, schools or to "supply a neighborhood" in off-peak hours or when demand is heavy, such as hot summer days.

"It's important to Nissan that we manage the complete life cycle of the electric vehicle battery pack, even beyond its use in a Nissan car," said Ken Srebnik, senior manager of corporate planning for Nissan.

The question of the batteries' usefulness beyond the Leaf has been a key environmental issue and Nissan has been looking for ways to recycle them.

The Leaf is "already 99% recyclable, with large components that are made with recycled material," Zachary said.

In late 2010, Nissan began mass-marketing electric vehicles for consumer use, with the introduction of the five-passenger Leaf, and has sold nearly 10,000 of them so far in the United States. Leaf deliveries have been limited by production constraints that will soon be corrected.

The automaker is building a $1 billion facility at its Smyrna complex to make the battery packs, with an initial capacity of about 200,000 of the batteries annually when it opens late this year. It also is expanding its operations in Smyrna to assemble the Leaf, beginning early next year, with an annual capacity of 150,000 vehicles. The car now is made exclusively in Japan.


Information from: The Tennessean,

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