Electric Vehicles

Researchers Investigate Secondary Uses for EV Batteries

April 26, 2011

GOLDEN, CO - The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is teaming with industry and academia to give batteries from electric drive vehicles (EV) a “second life.” NREL’s partner is an industry-academia team led by the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE).

Possible secondary uses for lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries include residential and commercial electric power management, power grid stabilization to help provide reliable electricity to users, and renewable energy system firming — which in this case involves using batteries to make power provided to the grid by variable resources such as wind and solar energy more useable.

The project will begin with a technical and economic analysis addressing all aspects of a battery’s lifecycle in search of the best second-use strategies, followed by a test program to verify findings, particularly battery lifetimes. For the field test, researchers will deploy aged EV batteries at the University of California, San Diego’s campus-wide electric power grid. The results of the study will:

  • Provide validated tools and data on battery life to industry for battery reuse
  • Recommend EV battery design and manufacturing practices
  • Identify the necessary regulatory changes to encourage secondary battery use
  • Assess the economic benefit of second uses.

The cost of Li-ion batteries also currently affects the affordability of EVs. Researchers will do a technical and economic investigation to see if the potential for reusing Li-ion batteries could lead to buyers obtaining a cost credit for the remaining value of a used battery, potentially offsetting a portion of the initial cost of the vehicle. It might be the case that while a battery no longer has sufficient power for an EV, it still has the capability to meet the needs of other less demanding applications.

Allocating used electric vehicle batteries to second-use applications also could benefit the environment by delaying the recycling or disposing of batteries, and by supplying a service that improves the efficiency and cleanliness of other industries.

The CCSE project team includes the UC Davis’s Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research Center, the UC Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC), UC San Diego Strategic Energy Initiatives, San Diego Gas & Electric, and AeroVironment.

The NREL award to the CCSE team leverages an ongoing UC Davis-CCSE-TSRC study funded by the California Energy Commission on the repurposing of used EV batteries for home energy storage. The total budget for the NREL-CCSE second-use battery project is approximately $1.3 million, with 51 percent of the funding coming from CCSE and its partners.

This activity is sponsored by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

NREL is the Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC.

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