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Study Finds Challenges in Secondary Use of Electric Car Batteries

In theory, EV batteries (like those found in the Nissan LEAF’s 660-pound pack) should be used after their best days in the vehicle.
It’s not easy being a plug-in vehicle battery. After all, you’re considered useless as an automotive battery after only about 20 percent of your life is used up. There must be life after EV, right? The first two phases of a study funded by the State of California and the U.S. Department of Energy suggests that EV batteries can be reincarnated. But finding a residual value in your battery doesn’t necessarily mean you will be paying less for electric vehicles in the future.

The multi-year study is being conducted by the California Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego. Since the California Energy Commission provided some of the funding, the Center confined its possible uses to those that would have value for Californians. The state’s residents represent about 35 percent of all EV and plug-in hybrid owners in the United States.

One of the motivations of the project, said Mike Ferry, the Center’s transportation programs manager, was to try to lower the cost of electric vehicles. “That probably isn’t going to work,” he said. The battery’s value would depreciate too much in the 8 to 10 years of use in the car, he said. Meanwhile, better battery technologies would be developed.
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