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In San Diego, Mulling the Second Life of an E.V. Battery

http://kngrid.comThere is no denying how cost-intensive battery packs are for manufacturers of electric vehicles. A possible strategy for defraying those costs would involve giving them a second, stationary life as backup power for the electrical grid.

Several re-use experiments are under way, including two backed by General Motors and Nissan. Also working on the issue is a consortium of universities and nonprofit groups that is preparing to use E.V. batteries as part of a renewable energy “microgrid” at the University of California, San Diego.

Partners in the San Diego experiment, led by the school’s California Center for Sustainable Energy, include the Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California, Davis; the University of California, Berkeley; San Diego Gas and Electric; and AeroVironment, the preferred charger manufacturer for the Nissan Leaf and BMW ActiveE plug-in vehicles.

“On paper, it looks like modest but positive reductions are possible to bring down the cost of a hypothetical Chevrolet Volt battery lease as much as 20 percent through the residual value in their used packs,” said Brett Williams, a senior researcher in electric drive energy at the University of California, Berkeley, in a telephone interview.


Mr. Williams said that the research team would use a process to accelerate the aging of E.V. packs “that simulates years of use.” Batteries from electric cars could have 70 to 80 percent of their storage capacity left after their useful life in vehicles was over, he said, though he added that batteries from plug-in hybrids were likely to have led a harder or longer life and might be more depleted. The residual value of used packs could range from several hundred dollars to several thousand.

Those theoretical reductions were arrived at in the first phase of the battery test program, which included lab testing of packs at AeroVironment and was financed with $985,000 from the California Energy Commission.

The second phase, scheduled to begin before the end of the year with $660,000 from the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, includes on-the-ground pack testing. Mr. Williams said in an interview that sourcing used E.V. batteries for the project could be difficult, given their scarcity. But preliminary discussions were under way for the participation of both G.M., which has been conducting second-life battery testing in a partnership with ABB Group, and Nissan, which has undertaken similar work with Sumitomo Corporation.

In San Diego, four battery bays will be located in the basement of the Hopkins parking garage, which is topped by a grovelike structure of more than 300 kilowatts of photovoltaic panels installed with partner Envision Solar, and is set up to eventually offer electric vehicle charging. The batteries could store power from the panels and deliver more consistent electricity from the intermittent solar source.

In an interview, Mike Ferry, transportation programs manager at the California Center, described the experiment as “a long-term field test” that would last a minimum of one year or could be extended for several years. The panels’ solar output peaks at noon, Mr. Ferry said, and the grid load peaks at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m., “so even shifting stored solar power three or four hours could be of significant benefit.”

According to Mr. Williams, the experiments would test how much value battery backup would have for building owners trying to reduce their load on the grid, and for utilities that want to avoid additional investment in distribution equipment to meet peak demand.

Byron Washom, director of strategic energy initiatives and the San Diego university, said in an e-mail that the experiment, if successful, would demonstrate the value of battery backup power for microgrids and “remove utility barriers to greater penetration of localized solar energy in the future.”

 

COMMENTS FROM LINKEDIN: 

Rich Marks •                        I am glad to see UCSD doing this work.  There has been a lot of discussion but not a lot of deep thought.  The problem with a truck load of "used" EV batteries is how to do you use them.  Which are good, bad, or indifferent. Since most of the electronics to control battery packs remain in the vehicle, these batteries have no charger or battery management or thermal system connected to them. This is solvable but will the OEM's really do anything other than talk about it. First, the auto industry needs to move beyond standardized cells and move to standard size modules (not packs!). For example the Volt has 288 cells sandwiched three together in parallel that gives 96 - 3.2V "modules" but if 4 of these modules were built in a single module, there would be 24 modules to build the pack rather than 288 cells.  This would dramatically reduce the price of the battery packs plus make secondary use much more feasible.  Each module would also have a generic BMS connector so you would not have to use the OEM's unit and the module and generic BMS would read State of Life on each module, which is not done at all today.  A quick connection to the generic BMS would read not only State of Health - voltage & maybe current under some load test, but tell estimate life left in battery.  State of Life is more complicated because it requires time history of how the battery has been used or abused before secondary applications. My experience is that the OEM's are not interested in doing this and really do not want EV's anyway.  Too disruptive to their current auto business model. I hope these comments may get to UCSD people to read. and hopes it helps get this secondary use moving forward in the right direction, doing the right things up front. 

 

Views: 57

Tags: ActiveE, BMW, Battery, EV, Leaf, Life, MicroGrid, Nissan, Second, electric, More…vehicles

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