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Mr. Green Car: Recycling electric vehicle batteries

As we move ever closer to going mainstream with electric vehicles (EV), there are already concerns arising over what becomes of the batteries when the time comes to replace them. The summer 2012 edition of Green Car Journal has an article about the topic written by Bill Siuru. I’d like to share it with you (following in italics) since I don’t think I can reword it to provide a clearer picture of what the potential is for these batteries after they have passed the point of being useful in a car.

Repurposing spent electric car batteries is a smart move that can keep them out of the waste stream and provide value to seemingly useless products. This line of thought is gaining believers because it addresses both environmental and economic challenges.

One of the major hurdles holding back the widespread popularity of electric vehicles is their battery cost. The retail price of EVs could be cut drastically if batteries retained a high residual value after they could no longer power electric vehicles, especially if EV batteries were leased separately rather than sold with an electric car.

Actually, EV batteries should retain high residual values. On average, electric car batteries that cannot hold sufficient charge for motive use can still retain as much as 70 percent of their energy storage capacity, even after eight to 10 years of use powering a car. Several projects are now under way aimed at establishing a secondary battery market for these spent batteries.

Since most EV battery packs are modular, individual modules could be reconfigured for other applications like powering electric bikes. The most promising application is to integrate several into a “grid energy storage box” to provide temporary power during a utility outage, or to handle peak grid demands.

Nissan North America, working with power-transmission equipment manufacturer, ABB, Sumitomo Corp. of America, and 4R Energy Corporation, is looking at using spent lithium-ion batteries such as those used in the Nissan LEAF. The goal is to use these batteries for energy storage by utility companies and as community power sources. A 50 kilowatt-hour battery storage prototype now under development could power 15 homes for two hours. Nissan already sells a system in Japan that enables the LEAF to serve as a back up electricity storage system for homes.
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