Used electric car batteries installed as back-up power supply at railroad crossings

Nissan is supplying repurposed battery packs from its Leaf electric car to serve as emergency power supply units at railroad crossings in Japan, the car manufacturer announced last month.

The efforts are part of a trial programme with East Japan Railway Company (JR East), which seeks to phase out the use of lead-acid batteries in emergency power supply units along the tracks. These units are in place to ensure crossings can function at all times, even in the case of a power outage. The first Leaf battery was installed in januari 2021, meaning the efforts are now in their second year.

The repurposed battery backs often still retain up 80 percent of their original capacity and come with added benefits of reduced charging time and increased durability over lead-acid batteries.

“With lead-acid batteries, we have to periodically visit railroad crossings to check the state of charge and any deterioration”, Kaito Tochihara, assistant chief researcher at the East Japan Railway R&D center, says. “However, with repurposed lithium-ion batteries, there is a control system attached, similar to an EV, so we can remotely check the battery’s status. This should lead to improved maintenance standards. This system also enables preventative maintenance by informing us of the battery’s status before its voltage becomes too low.”

The mentioned control system was adapted prior to installation, to enable the battery to withstand sudden surges of high voltage from a lightning strike. Before installation, the battery also underwent various operational tests by JR East and 4R Energy Corporation, Nissan’s partner responsible for repurposing battery packs.

Author: Nick Augusteijn


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