Now chill your beer or host a barbeque using electric cars: Here’s how

Lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles (mostly cars and buses) are still functional for another 7-10 years after being taken off the vehicle's chassis -- a shelf life with significant ramifications for global carmakers, electricity providers and raw-materials suppliers.

By: | Updated: June 28, 2018 8:56 PM

EVs, electric vehicles, Auto Expo, Tata Motors, CEO Guenter Butschek

India is just talking about electric cars whereas hybrid and electric car batteries in countries like Japan are hitting retirement age and thankfully being used for better purposes and not yet bound for landfills. Japan is known for its innovation and these used electric car batteries will spend its last few years chilling beers at 7-Eleven stores in Japan. Not just cities in Japan, California is deploying these ageing batteries to power car-charging stations and in Europe, they are used to store energy in power grids.

Lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles (mostly cars and buses) are still functional for another 7-10 years after being taken off the vehicle's chassis -- a shelf life with significant ramifications for global carmakers, electricity providers and raw-materials suppliers.

Globally with the increase in the sentiment to use renewable energy, finding ways to reuse these batteries is now becoming a trend. As the stock of EVs goes up it is expected to exceed over 3.4 million battery packs by 2025 as against 55,000 this year as per Bloomberg NEF data.

China, where about half the world’s EVs are sold, is soon going to implement laws which will make carmakers responsible for expired batteries and keep them out of landfills. The European Union has regulations, and the industry expects the U.S. to follow.

Top carmakers including General Motors, BMW AG, Toyota Motor Corp, BYD Co. and a clutch of renewable-energy storage suppliers are among those trying to create an aftermarket and extra profits for a device that only recently coalesced into its own market. Second lives generate second revenue streams for the same product, and those could help lower prices for EVs.

“The car manufacturers have an upcoming problem and one that we are already starting to see: this massive volume of batteries,’’ said Johan Stjernberg, chief executive officer of Box of Energy AB, a Swedish company working with Porsche and Volvo Cars. “The market will be enormous for second-life applications with storage.’’

The decade-by-decade forecast by BNEF is staggering. By 2030, there will be a 25-fold surge in battery demand for EVs. Automobiles have overtaken consumer electronics as the biggest users of lithium-ion batteries, according to Paris-based Avicenne Energy.

By 2040, more than half of new-car sales and a third of the global fleet –- equal to 559 million vehicles -- will be electric. By 2050, companies will have invested about $550 billion in home, industrial and grid-scale battery storage, according to BNEF.

“The logic behind this is the circular economy,” said Cecile Sobole, program manager for Renault SA’s EV business. “The battery coming from the electric vehicle will become more and more a part of the energy world.”

Yet as many companies dive in, Elon Musk's Tesla has stayed in the sidelines and silent about this issue. The Palo Alto, California-based company said its batteries probably won’t be suitable for a new task after 10 to 15 years of use, and it’s focusing on recovering the raw materials. Repurposing efforts may slow if it becomes more profitable to extract materials like cobalt and simply make new batteries.

Declining performance for an EV battery is evidenced by reducing range, and more frequent plug-ins by owners. The components typically will be swapped out after about a decade in family cars and four years in harder-working buses and taxis. These recycled batteries cannot power an electric car but are ideal for tasks like storing electricity on solar panels and wind turbines.

“A lithium-ion battery actually never dies,” said Hans Eric Melin, founder of London-based Circular Energy Storage Research and Consulting. “It’s just like you can take an alkaline battery out of your flashlight and put it into a remote control, and it’ll still be good enough.”

By 2025, about three-quarters of spent EV batteries will be reused and then recycled to harvest raw materials, Melin said. That means automakers and battery producers such as China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. can profit from the same pack several times.

The Japanese automaker, Toyota is committed to installing used car batteries from Prius install retired batteries outside 7-Eleven stores in Japan next year. The hybrid batteries will store power from solar panels, and then use the juice when needed to help run the drink coolers, fried chicken warmers and sausage grills inside the stores and these can also help is powering the electric barbeque you want to host.

A typical EV battery retains about 50 percent to 70 percent of its power capacity upon removal, said Tom Zhao, managing director of global sales for BYD’s battery group. The Warren Buffett-backed company uses secondhand packs to power wireless transmission towers and to help run one of China’s biggest energy-storage systems in Shenzhen.

Not using these ageing electric car batteries is a a huge waste and carmakers will ensure it is used to its full potential and recying it for better purposes.

-With Inputs from Bloomberg

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