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Audi batteries find second life in forklift trucks

Used lithium batteries from Audi cars are being reused in forklift trucks at the car manufacturer’s factory in Ingolstadt, Germany. The batteries come from the Audi e-tron, its first all-electronic car, and hybrid models such as the A3 and Q7 e-tron.

Audi’s forklift trucks are typically powered by lead-acid batteries, each weighing up to two tonnes, that have to be removed to be recharged. Lithium-ion batteries can simply remain in the vehicles and be renewed with power at night or during downtime. Audi says it can save ‘millions of euros’ by equipping its worldwide fleet of factory vehicles with used lithium-ion batteries.

Like all manufacturers, Audi is required by law to take back batteries from cars when they are due for replacement. These batteries often retain a large part of their charging capacity. ‘There are valuable raw materials in a lithium-ion battery and a lot of energy is needed to make one,’ says Peter Kössler, board member for production and logistics at Audi. ‘In order to achieve truly sustainable electric mobility, we must therefore also look at how we can reuse batteries.’

Easier to charge

Used lithium-ion batteries boost the driving performance of a forklift truck, Audi claims. ‘For example, vehicles carrying lithium-ion batteries maintain a constant speed, even on slopes, that is not possible with lead-acid batteries. In addition, the battery can easily be charged so they are not out of commission for a long time.’

The battery of an Audi e-tron, which is situated under the floor of the passenger compartment, consists of 36 individual modules. When the battery is discarded, each module is checked for reusability. For use in a factory vehicle, 24 modules are brought together in a package that is as large and heavy as an old lead-acid battery. As a result, no major adjustments have to be made to the vehicles.

Reuse and recycling

A dedicated team at Audi has been working on the reuse project for two years. After the successful testing of the lithium-ion batteries, vehicles using them are now being assessed at the factory in Ingolstadt.

Used batteries may also be used in mobile charging stations for electric cars or as storage for energy. Audi is also working on ways to recycle them.

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