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USA: ABB, GM test battery re-use

Lead engineer Sandeep Bala says ABB has yet to determine how Chevy Volt batteries will be cooled in the summer and warmed in the winter. Lithium ion cells are temperature-controlled in the Volt with liquid coolant.

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BY JOHN MURAWSKI – Staff Writer

Tags: business | local | news | shopping | technology

This is the heart and soul of General Motors’ new Chevy Volt hybrid wonder car: a T-shape mass of batteries, weighing 435 pounds and storing enough juice to drive the Volt 35 to 40 miles between recharges.

Less known is that the Volt’s T-pack also could power a typical midsize home up to eight hours.

The Volt’s lithium ion battery wasn’t designed to run refrigerators, computers and hair dryers. But that potential benefit has given rise to an experiment in a Raleigh lab to see whether the Volt batteries also could be tapped as stationary power modules in neighborhoods, office parks and for military applications.

ABB, the Swiss energy conglomerate, and GM have teamed up to study how Volt batteries perform during power outages or times of peak energy demand.

The first phase of the experiment is nearly complete as the lithium ion cells are readied for interconnection with a utility power grid. Three power companies are expected to sign agreements in the coming months to test the batteries, said Pablo Rosenfeld, manager of ABB’s distributed energy storage program.

At N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus, where ABB has its Corporate Research Center and North American headquarters for the Power Products and Power Systems Division, a Volt T-pack rests on a lab floor, wired to equipment and monitors. The battery is rapidly drained and charged, simulating how it would be called to duty in a neighborhood.

“Energy storage really is the Holy Grail,” ABB spokesman Bob Fesmire said. “If you find a reasonably priced way to store large amounts of energy, it would solve a lot our energy issues.”

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