| TOKYO, July 11
TOKYO, July 11 With the country steeped in
power-saving mode, energy generation has become all the rage
among Japanese automakers.
Nissan Motor Co on Monday unveiled a new charging
system that gets electricity from solar power that can also be
stored in the lithium-ion batteries used in its Leaf electric
The 488 newly installed solar panels at Nissan's global
headquarters will produce enough electricity to charge 1,800
Leafs a year, allowing drivers plugging into one of its seven
charging spots to travel on carbon-free energy.
Nissan's announcement comes just days after Mitsubishi
Motors Corp said it would develop and market this
business year a portable converter with enough capacity to allow
its electric vehicles (EVs) to power household electronics such
as rice cookers and washing machines.
Japanese automakers have been working on clean-energy
initiatives for years, but the earthquake and tsunami on March
11 have made electricity supply and sourcing an immediate
"Setsuden", or power-saving, has become a buzzword in Japan,
where the disasters crippled a nuclear reactor and triggered the
worst radiation crisis since Chernobyl. Starting this month,
big-lot electricity users in eastern Japan are required to cut
peak consumption by 15 percent during the hot summer months, and
utilities have also appealed to households to do their part.
Through a joint venture set up last year with Sumitomo Corp
, Nissan plans to re-fabricate and resell its electric
cars' high-capacity batteries as power storage units when the
car is traded in or scrapped starting in 2016.
"These batteries can be useful as back-up power for homes
when there's an outage," said Takashi Sakagami, head of the
joint venture, 4R Energy Corp. The firm is targeting cumulative
sales equivalent to 100,000 electric cars' worth of second-life
batteries in 2020.
Two weeks ago, Toyota Motor Corp began a test-run
of a model home that manages electricity consumption and taps
into weather forecasts to maximise the use of solar power. A
separate battery unit, much like 4R Energy's and manufactured by
Toyota affiliate Denso Corp , can be used to store
cheaper, night-time electricity when the weather is forecast to
be overcast the following day.
"Electricity has become a major issue and people are in
'setsuden' mode, but we want to develop a system that doesn't
ask people to endure too much discomfort," Toyota's project
manager Hiroshi Okajima said.
The project, led by Toyota City and comprising about two
dozen companies, will run a trial through 67 houses to be sold
by Toyota's housing unit, Toyota Home, by the end of 2013. With
deregulation, the "smart home" concept could be linked up to the
grid, allowing whole communities to share clean electricity and
rely less on the traditional grid, officials said.
Honda Motor Co , which already makes solar panels,
will follow on Wednesday with a briefing on its latest
cogeneration unit that runs on natural or propane gas.
(Editing by Joseph Radford)