EV Battery Re-use

by Ernie Hernandez on July 23, 2011

Volt battery re-use

GM announces a secondary use electric vehicle battery plan

It’s not like we’re picking on GM or anything, but seriously…

This communication, only one of many, creates an awareness of the difference in the approach that these two manufacturers bring to the sustainability movement. Many in the industry (and many observers from both the business/industrial community and the consumer community) see the introduction of the electric vehicle (EV) as some sort of stand-alone measure. In reality, the EV “movement” is more about the sustainability of society. Whether that society be in Japan, the United States, Europe, or elsewhere.

Nissan has been developing the current technology of the battery system used in the Nissan LEAF for about 19 years now. Likely in that timeframe, they have worn out their fair share of batteries. This likely led to the idea by someone somewhere – “Ya know… we’ve got all of these used batteries lying around. What should we do with them?” Which ultimately led to the announcement that Nissan made jointly with Sumitomo to create the 4R Energy Corporation. This corporation was created to “Reuse, Resell, Refabricate & Recycle” EV batteries. (Those clever Japanese, with their ability to create ingenious names such as this. Our favorite is JATCO – a Nissan offshoot that makes automatic transmissions (Japanese Automatic Transmission Company)). This announcement of the creation of the 4R Energy Corporation was made in October 2009. The needs that Nissan sees being met by these partially depleted batteries would be these:

  • Energy storage with photovoltaic solar panels for residential and industrial needs
  • Back-up power supplies
  • Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS)
  • Load leveling for the electricity grid
  • Leveling of energy from both photovoltaic solar and wind power

Oh yes… the GM announcement.

About a year after the Nissan announcement mentioned above, GM announced their partnership with ABB to perform a similar function as 4R Energy would for Nissan. Just this week GM demonstrated a prototype system developed with ABB Group to introduce power from recycled Volt batteries back into the grid.

All that said about GM coming late to the party prompted us to take a look at another automaker. You know… the one that has the lead in the hybrid market. Searching “prius battery reuse” in Toyota’s media website drew no response. Trying “prius battery recycle” – nothing. So we just went with “prius battery” and BINGO – 54 responses. None of which had anything at all about any kind of second use or recycling plan that Toyota has in place for existing hybrid batteries that are beyond their prime. After further digging (which we will get to in another article), we discovered that hybrid batteries are indeed being recycled. Toyota, though, is apparently farming out all aspects, as they offer up no press release since 2007 regarding the recycling of hybrid batteries.

Our takeaway from all this? Each maker provides not only unique thought processes to the development of an alternative to the gasoline engined vehicle, but each maker views the overall process through a different lens.

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