Nissan lends batteries to green data centre project

Nissan has found a green avenue to solve a potential end-of-life cycle problem of lithium-ion batteries installed in electric vehicles.

The automaker has joined GreenDataNet, a project aimed at developing technologies to allow urban data centre users to reach 80% of renewable power use and decrease their average power usage effectiveness from its current range of 1.6 to 2.0 to less than 1.3.

The European Union funded initiative will also be investigating second-life electric vehicle (EV) batteries as a more advantageous solution for data centres to become actual smart grid nodes.

Redmer Van der Meer, director of the EV programme at Nissan, told CIO UK that the move was two years in planning and in line with the company's philosophy of '4Rs' – reuse, refabrication, resell and/or recycle – when it comes to components.

"We have a holistic approach tied-in to our Leaf EV model and the 4R strategy. One of the things to consider is the battery. Once it is of no use to the vehicle; that it could be utilised in a large-scale storage solution to facilitate the integration of data centres into smart grids, and a greener power supply management platform, would be ideal."

Nissan was taking a "long-term viewpoint" in the digital age coupled with a growth of the electric car market on the horizon, he added.

By some estimates, the EV market is likely to grow in the 5-10% per annum range, even though Nissan is not releasing its exact projections at this stage. Van der Meer says the company was doubling its EV sales every year and after initial scepticism, other automakers had taken the plunge too.

"At this stage there may not be many, but at some point a problem will arise about what to do with end-of-life lithium-ion batteries. This project could pave the pathway for the batteries to go to data centres."

Alongside Nissan, the project consortium includes Eaton, Credit Suisse, ICTRoom, French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Lausanne) and the University of Trento (Italy). It will reveal its findings and first-concept in 2017.

Earlier this year, Nissan's European CIO Stephen Kneebone, told CIO UK that the automaker's EV unit held the key to "keeping its innovative culture alive".

Van der Meer adds: "In line with that sentiment, here we are nailing our colours to the mast. It's a first for us and has implications for the wider industry. Automakers do not turn up at initiatives like this on a whim."

And the Nissan executive is convinced of tangible results. "I strongly believe that at the end of this project we will have a green data centre model. We will supply researchers with battery variants including used, half-life and new ones as they see fit to enable them in their work."

Away from the project, and on to market dynamics, Van der Meer also says the popularity of viable electric cars would not kill off hybrid models or increasingly fuel efficient conventional cars in an instant. "There is room for coexistence, especially as people warm up to emerging technologies at variable speeds."

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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