OSLO, Norway — U.S. industrial conglomerate Eaton, which uses second-hand Nissan electric vehicle batteries to power buildings, is in talks with up to six European football stadiums to help power their facilities, according to a senior executive. Eaton, a New York-listed firm that makes hydraulics, truck transmissions and other industrial products, says the market is niche but expects it to grow up to 20 times between now and 2022. In Europe, Middle East and Africa, Eaton estimates the potential market value to be $2.3 billion by 2025. What to do with the used batteries of electric vehicles is becoming a growing concern as their use expands with that of electric cars, which accounted for 1.5% of the 86 million cars sold globally last year, according to researchers JATO Dynamics. Eaton takes the cells from the batteries of Japanese carmaker Nissan's returned Leaf electric vehicles and repackages them into new units, a product it calls xStorage, to store power in buildings, both industrial and residential. It has already equipped the Netherlands' Johan Cruyff Arena, the legendary home of the Ajax football team, among other buildings, with what it calls "second-life batteries." Its latest project was in Oslo's Bislett athletics stadium in Norway, which is partly powered by solar panels. "The football stadium community is interested. From significant ones, (we are talking) with 5-6 stadiums in Europe." Eaton's senior vice president Craig McDonnell said in an interview on the sidelines of a presentation at Bislett stadium. With the exception of Tesla, which it sees as a competitor in the storage business, the firm is also talking with other automakers to expand its offering. McDonnell declined to give names. Eaton says its xStorage solution is 20% cheaper than a new battery, and every Nissan Leaf car can produce four such units. It is among the large-scale commercial ones in the developing market, with other projects run by German automaker BMW which supplies second-hand batteries from its i3 electric vehicles to store wind-farm produced electricity.
The past year has seen the electric motorcycle market take numerous major steps forward. Harley-Davidson finally showed off its production LiveWire, Zero released the super-cool upgraded SR/F naked streetfighter, Buell announced it is relaunching as an electric brand, Honda announced the CR Electric prototype, Husqvarna showed off a knobby electric minibike and Japan's Big 4 (Kawasaki, Yamaha, Honda, and Suzuki) reportedly agreed to work together on electric motorcycle standards. A new chapter in the electric two-wheeler story has been added this week, with the discovery of a Kawasaki patent that explores the idea of a sport bike with batteries that could be easily swapped.
The idea of battery swapping has been a topic of discussion for years. Although auto manufacturers have been able to push beyond previous battery limitations with chemical improvements and the advantage of space and size, smaller vehicles such as motorcycles are still dealing with the idea of range anxiety. The most obvious, but extremely complicated, solution is battery swapping. Last year Honda announced it was partnering with Panasonic to trial battery swapping with small motorcycles in Indonesia. Now it appears Kawasaki has been exploring similar tech.
One of the less-talked about aspects of electric cars is what we'll do with batteries once they've worn down. Nissan has come up with a clever idea for how they could be used to provide power while camping, and it teamed with trailer manufacturer Opus to show it off.
The solution in question is called the Nissan ROAM, and it's a little cube full of old lithium-ion battery cells from "first-generation Nissan electric vehicles," which we assume includes the original Nissan Leaf, that hooks up to the Air Opus trailer shown above. This bundle of cells can store up to 700Wh of electricity, and can provide power output up to 1kW. It features a variety of outlets for powering small devices and appliances, and supplies power to the onboard lights and heating.
Panasonic already works with Tesla on batteries for the latter’s electric vehicles and it appears that the company might soon work on similar products with Japanese auto behemoth Toyota. According to reports, Toyota and Panasonic will launch a joint venture to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles.
According to the Nikkei, the two companies are going to set up this joint venture at some point next year. They are reportedly focused on lowering the cost of these batteries by relying on economies of scale. The batteries that they make won’t just be limited to Toyota. They will reportedly supply Toyota’s Daihatsu brand in addition to other companies like Subaru and Mazda. They’re looking to win Honda as a client as well.
If there is a "problem" with many a smartphone these days is that most of them are starting to feature batteries that cannot be swapped out or replaced easily. This means that if your phone's battery is depleted, you can't just swap in a fresh one. However Panasonic has decided to keep that feature around with its new Android Toughbooks.
Coming in the form of the Toughbook T1 and the Toughbook L1 (the former is a 5-inch smartphone and the latter a 7-inch tablet), one of the key features of either device is the fact that its batteries are "warm swappable". This means that users will be able to swap out the batteries on either device without having to reboot it.