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New Life for EV Batteries

Posted on: 04/15/2013
Once they've finished powering electric vehicles (EV) for hundreds of thousands of miles, it may not be the end of the road for automotive batteries, which researchers believe can provide continued benefits for consumers, automakers, and the environment.

Five used Chevrolet Volt batteries are at the heart of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's (ORNL) effort to determine the feasibility of a community energy storage system that would put electricity onto the grid. Over the next year, researchers from ORNL, General Motors and the ABB Group will conduct studies and compile data using a test platform commissioned on April 15.

About one million lithium-ion batteries per year are predicted to come available from various automakers for the secondary market, beginning in 2020. Since these batteries could still have up to 80 percent of their capacity, the ORNL researchers believe they present an opportunity for use in stationary storage devices before sending them to be recycled.

By distributing electrical energy storage into many locations, these units could provide the benefits of a centralized unit but with potentially more localized applications. The ORNL platform provides 25 kilowatts of power and 50 kilowatt-hours of energy that could potentially provide cost-effective backup energy to homes and businesses.

GM and ABB have already demonstrated how a Chevrolet Volt battery pack can collect electrical energy and feed it back to the grid to deliver supplemental power to homes or businesses. Researchers noted that the system could potentially reduce energy costs and increase grid stability and reliability.

Last year in San Francisco, a GM/ABB energy storage system provided 100 percent of the electricity needed to power a temporary structure for several hours. A similar application could potentially power a group of homes or small commercial buildings during a power outage or help make up for gaps in solar, wind, or other renewable power generation.

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