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.
An electric vehicle has an appeal you can only understand once you've owned one. Sure, you might feel good about going green, analyzing every environmental consideration like our Alex Kierstein did recently. But there's a less noble, more immediately tangible reason to buy an EV — it really brings out one's inner cheapskate.
There is nothing sweeter than passing up the gas station where you used to throw away a $50 bill every week. Before purchasing a 2013 Nissan Leaf to serve my 35-mile daily commute, I had never imagined how satisfying it would be to whoosh past the pumps. Stuck in Seattle traffic, surrounded by gasoline-powered cars wastefully idling, my only energy loss was from the radio. There was political smugness: It felt kinda great to stick it to Big Oil. Don't have to stop, buy gas, fill up, change oil — don't have to do anything except remember to plug the car in at night.
The 2019 Nissan Leaf brings choice to the table. The bestselling electric car in the world is now offered in a choice of two battery packs with substantially different ranges (150 miles for the base Leaf and 226 for the new Leaf Plus). Buyers can choose which is a better fit for their driving demands and budget. After all, if you only go a handful of miles to work and back every day, why plunk down extra cash for range you don't need? At the same time, the availability of a longer-range model better aligns the Leaf with the Chevy Bolt, Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia Niro EV and Tesla Model 3. As for the car itself, the Leaf is a comfortable, well-equipped hatchback that can be more practical than many of the EVs with which it competes.
An updated infotainment system with an 8-inch display also finds its way into the Leaf Plus for 2019, but the normal Leaf keeps the old 7-inch unit. The menus look a little different, a few new features are added and it supports multi-touch inputs, but it still feels dated in actual use.
Nissan said Tuesday that the Leaf surpassed 400,000 sales, making it the first electric vehicle to hit that sales plateau. Of course, it's also had a hefty head start over its closest competitors, the Tesla Model 3 and the Chevrolet Bolt, having first gone on sale in late 2010, and it has a few other advantages as well. Not to rain on the Leaf parade or anything.
Now in its second generation and sporting improved driving ranges, Nissan says Leaf owners have driven their cars more than 6.2 billion collective miles, equating to an estimated savings of 3.8 million barrels of oil per year. The battery-powered hatchback is now available in more than 50 markets across the world, with six new markets coming on board during the first half of 2019 in Latin America, and seven across Asia and Oceania by year's end. The Leaf was the best-selling EV in Europe in 2018 and the top-selling vehicle of any kind in Norway last year, Nissan says.
The 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus starts at $37,445 including destination fees. That's a $7,360 price increase over a base 2019 Leaf. For that extra dough you get a larger battery pack for more range, bringing the EPA-rated number up to 226 miles. A base Leaf will take you 150 miles with a full charge. More power is also on tap for the Leaf Plus — up 54 horsepower and 14 pound-feet of torque — and you can read what we think of the new car here.
That starting price is for the entry-level S trim. Stepping up to the mid-grade SV you're looking at a $39,405 Leaf, and the top-tier SL will ring in at a much higher $43,445. So yes, the long-range Leaf gets pricey quickly, but a lot of the equipment added is well worth your time. When you step up to the SV you get the portable charge cable, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, fog lights, adaptive cruise control and the new eight-inch infotainment system. You are also granted the ability to check some option boxes that aren't available on the base S.
SAN DIEGO — The 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus is one of those "ask and you shall receive" situations. The company has lagged behind in the range discussion for too long — the redesigned 2018 Leaf has only a 150-mile range, after all. This is plenty for some people, but the competition offers more. Nissan heard the cries, and now we have the Leaf Plus. Hallelujah, right?
Picking out a Leaf Plus from a group of normal Leafs is easiest if you're looking at it from behind. Nissan added a "Plus" badge to the bottom right-hand part of the hatch under the trim designation. Then if you're a true EV sleuth, the lower front bumper lip is painted in a contrasting blue as long as you didn't opt for the dark blue paint option. This looks good on some colors, but a bit disjointed on others. Choose wisely, we'll say.