The electric car revolution

Batteries: second parts can be good

They were considered amortised after just 8 or 10 years, although they were at 70% to 80% of their capacity. But as Leonardo DiCaprio said in the film that garnered him an Oscar, electric car batteries are the new reawakening. The end will come in the form of recycling but meanwhile they can live a second life as productive as the first: lighting football stadiums, providing energy for a data centre, feeding the public lighting system of a city or being the backdrop that lights a household or even a whole city when necessary.

A study by the consultancy IDTechEx calculates that in barely a decade, for 2029, approximately 3 million electric batteries will be available to have a second opportunity each year, which represents approximately 108 GWh in storage capacity and many possibilities.

Although most of these possibilities are still to be explored, there are a few examples that show that in the case of batteries second parts can be good or even better:

The Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam houses Ajax for its home games and the biggest energy storage system located in a commercial building in all of Europe. To develop this, the equivalent of 180 batteries was recycled from the Nissan LEAF model to create a massive storage system which, combined with 4.200 solar panels located on the building’s roof enable storing sufficient energy to provide electricity for 7000 households for one hour.

The Japanese city of Namie will install a new public lighting system fed exclusively by solar panels and used batteries of the model Nissan LEAF in a project baptised as "reborn light"; General Motors has used batteries from the model Chevrolet Volt to provide backup energy for its data centre in Michigan and Renault has just launched the project Advanced Battery Storage, the largest storage system elaborated using electric car batteries in Europe, which will be operational in 2020, with a power of 70MW and storage capacity of 60MWh.

The initial modules in this project will start to be stored in 2019 in locations in France and Germany and for 2020 it is expected that this figure will reach 2000 connected batteries, sufficient to light 5000 homes for a whole day.

Picture of energy storage projects with electric batteries

Mega battery for Melilla

We don’t have to go outside Spain to find examples of how to give a second life to electric car batteries From Endesa, we have just launched an ambitious large-sized energy storage project with electric car batteries. This will be up and running in summer 2019 and could guarantee energy supply of the autonomous city of Melilla, which has 86,120 inhabitants for 15 minutes or even longer if loads lower than 4 MW are applied.

The storage system, which counts on the collaboration of Nissan, will be installed in the autonomous city’s thermal power station and will have power up to 4 MW and maximum stored energy of 1.7 MWh. To put this into operation, 78 battery packs from the model Nissan LEAF will be used like the one that appears in the picture.

“As a differentiating aspect, what is sought in the Melilla project is obtaining a cheaper solution with similar and much more sustainable provisions”

– Andrés Sánchez-Biezma Sacristán, Endesa’s Innovation of Generation manager

Andrés Sánchez-Biezma Sacristán, Innovation of Generation manager recognises that today there are commercial solutions for new batteries with this size and specifically designed for the electric sector and in fact we have some examples of stations in operation with this kind of solution... "As a differentiating aspect, what is sought in the Melilla project is to obtain a cheaper solution with similar and much more sustainable provisions", he states.

Not only is a solution provided for the environmental challenge entailed by processing batteries once removed from the car, but in their new life, "they will support and cover the power station and the Melilla electric system in situations of instability or loss of a generator group", he points out.

Picture of the Melilla energy storage project

The aim of the project is to demonstrate the viability of recycling used electric car batteries. "With the increased fleet of this kind of vehicle, key in the automobile sector’s decarbonisation strategy, an exponential growth in the number of batteries used is foreseen. This type of battery when clustered together could have a second use in the electric generation sector, which lowers prices compared to use of new power batteries and facilitating its implantation", concludes Sánchez-Biezma.

A report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) highlights that the outlook opened up by this second battery life is good for the environment and also for our pockets: the costs of batteries, by far the most expensive component of electric cars could be reduced up to 95% thanks to this extension of their useful life.

And, when this second opportunity is over, recycling will arrive. But this won’t be the end either. According to data from Recyclia, 70% of materials from an electric car battery can be reused if recycling is performed appropriately: nickel, copper, aluminium, lithium and cobalt will form part of new products with new lives.

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