What to do with old EV batteries: Convert to energy storage system

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GM and ABB have found a use for old EV batteries – an energy storage system that can support solar PV and provide emergency backup power.

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General Motors (GM) and ABB have successfully converted used Chevy Volt batteries into a modular microgrid energy storage system that can support distributed generation and provide emergency backup power.

Other microgrid energy storage systems have recently come online, but this one is the first to revolve around batteries from electric vehicles.

The system, comprised of five used Volt batteries, can provide 25 kilowatts (kW) of power for about two hours for a total energy capacity of 50 kWh. This capacity could provide enough electricity to power three to five average American homes for two hours.

Chevy Volt battery packs hold around 16 kWh of electricity when first installed, but over time lose capacity and are unable to meet the electric vehicle’s needs. This new breakthrough could extend the life of batteries and make their manufacturing more profitable.

“When an EV battery has reached the end of its life in an automotive application, only 30 percent or less of its life has been used,” said Pablo Valencia of GM. “This leaves a tremendous amount of life that can be applied to other applications.”

Backup Power for Homes and Businesses

GM and ABB demonstrated the system during GM’s Electrification Experience, with the repurposed batteries providing 100% of the power used by the off-grid demonstration facility. The system will work autonomously in a “remote power backup” mode, but can also be manually dispatched by a utility or other owner.

A similar application could power a group of homes or small commercial businesses during a power outage, store excess power during off-peak periods at low-price periods to sell back to the grid for a profit during peak demand, or balance intermittent supply from wind or solar generation.

The battery system also includes an inverter to convert direct current from the batteries to alternating current for use from conventional wall sockets, further expanding its potential use.

Balancing Community-Scale Energy

While GM and ABB first demonstrated the ability to store and distribute electricity through an EV battery last year, this is the first real-world test of a technology that could revolutionize community-scale energy systems.

“The ABB-GM Volt battery system is the world’s first use of car batteries as possible back-up power for homes and other commercial uses,” said Allen Burchett of ABB. “We will be installing it on the grid soon… and this will tell us what smart grid applications are possible.”

Regardless of the ultimate applications, the GM-ABB system is a major step toward making two of the most important clean energy technologies – advanced batteries and renewable generation – more cost-effective and reliable.

This article was orginally posted on CleantTechnica. Re-posted with permission.

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  1. Markw 7 years ago

    That’s great, but since the Volts battery is under warranty to retain 70% of its capacity after 8 years (10 in California ) , and is projected to still have the same capacity as a For C-Max after 15 years, and a greater capacity that a plug-in Prius after 20 years you are going to be waiting a while for those used batteries….

  2. David 7 years ago

    I doubt very much if this idea has commercial application. Of course you can make old batteries work as batteries (for a while) but in the real world the on going maintenance labour required to deal with an increasing rate of individual cell failures will make this impractical.
    The old batteries will also have reduced cycle efficiencies, increased internal leakage, higher cell cooling requirements and so on.
    It would be much better to concentrate on improving the recycling process for the battery materials.

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