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Re-use of Li-ion batteries under investigation

United States – The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is working alongside an industry-academia team led by the California Center for Sustainable Energy to try to find a second life for batteries from electric drive vehicles (EVs).

It will be the most wide-ranging study to date into the feasibility, durability, and value of lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries for second-use applications. Possible uses include residential and commercial electrical power management, and power grid stabilisation to help provide a more reliable flow. A specific objective for the team is to look at renewable energy system ‘firming’, which involves using batteries to support the variable power provided to the grid by sources such as wind and solar energy.

 

The project will begin with a comprehensive technical and economic analysis addressing all aspects of a battery’s life cycle in search of the best second-use strategies, followed by a test program to assess battery lifetimes. For the field test, researchers will deploy former EV batteries to help power the electrical grid across the University of California’s San Diego campus. As well as learning more about battery life, the study aims to formulate recommendations for EV battery design and manufacturing practices, identify necessary regulatory changes to encourage battery re-use, and assess the economic benefits.

 

The initial high cost of Li-ion batteries makes EVs less affordable for many consumers. Researchers will look at the economics of offering consumers a credit against the residual value of a used battery, potentially offsetting part of the up-front cost. They hope to show that when a battery no longer has sufficient power for an EV, it can still fulfill less demanding applications. Re-using EV batteries could benefit the environment by delaying recycling or disposal, and by improving the efficiency and cleanliness of other industries.

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