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GM turns your old Chevy Volt battery into a whole-house UPS

When your plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle is ready for the recycling center, the costly lithium-ion battery that makes it go isn’t ready to be ripped apart into its essential elements. Now GM and ABB have shown you can turn the old batteries into uninterruptible power supplies that keep a house going for a couple days. The trick: Your iPhone or laptop battery is a goner after a couple hundred discharge-recharge cycles, but after a decade of use a car’s lithium-ion battery still holds at least 70% of the power it had on day one.

General Motors and Swiss power-and-automation giant ABB created a prototype module from five used Chevrolet Volt batteries at the recent GM Electrification Experience in San Francisco. The unit output 25 kW of power and 25 kWh of energy. There it ran lighting and AV equipment in an off-grid structure used at the event. In a real situation — as real as a metal skid with used Chevy Volt batteries on your street would be “real” — GM says it would provide two hours of electricity for three to five typical American homes.

Pablo Valencia, GM senior manager of battery lifecycle management said, “In many cases, when an EV battery has reached the end of its life in an automotive application, only 30 percent or less of its life has been used. This leaves a tremendous amount of life that can be applied to other applications like powering a structure before the battery is recycled.”


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