Electric Car Batteries Get a Second Life

Repurposed Batteries Offer Benefits for EV Owners

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted April 28, 2011

Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently announced an initiative to find alternative uses for used high-performance electric vehicle batteries.

Some of these include providing storage for residential and commercial electric power management systems, power grid stabilization, and renewable energy system firming... 

New York Times reports:

From a technical perspective, a special area of focus for the laboratory’s research will be repurposing these batteries for Community Energy Storage systems on the electric utility grid, according to Jeremy Neubauer, a senior engineer in the lab’s energy storage group.

If all goes as planned, in the smart grid of the future electric utilities would distribute thousands of these Community Energy Storage packs throughout the grid to help them manage power flow, especially during peak times or outages.

It is said that one high performance battery pack could store 25 to 50 kilowatt hours of electricity — or enough to power four or five homes for two to three hours.

repurposed battery
One advantage to utilizing these repurposed batteries is they could actually bring down the cost for electric vehicle owners.

“We want to prove the battery has value, ultimately lowering the cost of owning the car for the consumer,” said Ahmad Pesaran, principal engineer on the NREL lab's study.

One plan for this initiative calls for various companies — the automaker, local utility, or finance company, for example — to retain ownership of the battery and lease it to the car owner, therefore only paying for the portion of the battery used while in the car.

Research at the NREL labs looks to conclude as early as October 2012, which it will then offer the findings to anyone who wants to further explore these various ownership models.

“Our motivation is to get more electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids out on the road,” Neubauer said.

“If using the tools that we develop reduces the cost of ownership of the vehicle, then the project will have been a success.”

Mike Tirone