Nissan Working to Retain Battery Minerals in Japan by Implementing EV Rental Service

Even though governments and automakers have made significant investments in the budding electric vehicle industry, several factors still stand in the way of mass electric vehicle adoption. Chief among them is a relatively limited supply of the rare metals used to build EV batteries. Furthermore, most EV battery metals, including lithium and cobalt, come from Asia, forcing automakers in the United States and Europe to rely on supplies from Asian countries such as China and Japan.

As American automakers look to beef up their battery metal supplies from local sources, Japanese automaker Nissan is taking extra steps to ensure scarce battery metals remain in the country. The automaker plans on allowing Japanese drivers to rent its EVs for years rather than buy them outright as part of a move aimed at keeping the rare metals used to develop EV batteries in the country.

Coincidentally, this will also make it easier for drivers who couldn’t otherwise afford to buy EVs to switch from fossil fuel-powered cars to the low-emission electric vehicles. This new EV rental service comes in the wake of a crippling shortage of crucial EV battery components that has forced automakers and governments around the world to cast their nets far and wide for battery metals such as lithium.

The service would allow Nissan to retain ownership of more of its battery electric vehicles, and the Yokohama-based automaker is hoping that it will be able to limit the number of EVs and batteries that are sold in foreign markets as secondhand cars. New Zealand and Russia are currently the two top export destinations for secondhand electric vehicles from Japan. As a result, a significant portion of battery metals from Japan ends up abroad in foreign markets.

First launched in December 2010, the Nissan Leaf has sold more than 350,000 units around the world. Yutaka Horie, the president of a joint venture between Nissan and Sumitomo Corporation called 4R Energy, says that since most of these EVs and their batteries are exported abroad, there are few electric vehicles and EV batteries left in Japan. 4R Energy’s main objective is to develop ways to extend the shelf life of EV batteries.

Although the rental service allows monthly subscriptions, it is mainly intended for customers who are looking to rent EVs on a long-term basis. Horie said in a statement to the Financial Times that Nissan wants consumers to understand that used EV batteries still have value and that these cars should remain in the country.

It remains to be seen how industry actors such as ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corp. Ltd. (NASDAQ: SOLO) adapt to the new normal of scarce battery metals at a time when demand for electric vehicle demand is growing at a fast pace.

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