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Old EV Batteries May Power Homes One Day
Design News ^ | 12/12/2012   | Charles Murray

Posted on 12/13/2012 9:03:04 PM PST by null and void

Partially depleted Chevy Volt batteries might find new life one day in energy storage applications outside the vehicle, such as parceling out power to homes during blackouts.

General Motors has entered a pilot program with the residential energy provider Duke Energy to put lithium-ion batteries to work in grid test demonstrations. To learn more about the concept's viability, Duke plans to use a module incorporating five Chevy Volt batteries. "Duke will look at the cost efficiencies and utility of the system to determine whether they can use it in more applications in the future," Kevin Kelly, a spokeman for GM, told us.

Though little is known about Duke's test application, GM says that five Volt batteries, packaged together in a single module, could provide two hours of electricity for five average American homes. In a recent off-grid demonstration using an energy storage inverter from ABB, a prototype module supplied 50kWh of energy to support lighting and audiovisual equipment.


A module with five used Chevy Volt batteries could provide two hours of electricity to five average American homes. (Source: GM)

GM engineers say Volt batteries could supply an additional 15 years of energy, even after the cells can no longer be used in a vehicle. The key to such ongoing capability is the way EV batteries are being designed and used in electric cars. To minimize warranty costs, today's EV manufacturers typically make their batteries much larger than they need to be. The batteries operate within large buffer zones, which enhance their automotive life by preventing them from reaching a fully charged or fully discharged state. As a result, the batteries may still have 70 percent of their capacity remaining when they reach the end of their useful automotive life.

Nissan Motor Co., maker of the Leaf electric car, is investigating using its 24kWh lithium-ion batteries in similar applications.

Industry analysts say the concept needs years of testing before it can be called viable. "We're still in the early days of electric vehicle battery usage," Cosmin Laslau, an analyst for Lux Research, told us.

It's probably going to be another five to 10 years before we can fully quantify and understand the wear on the batteries. Right now, we don't really know what a Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf battery would look like after a decade of real-world use. Even with accelerated testing, it's still difficult to predict.

GM envisions the batteries serving in residential subdivisions near local transformers to provide energy for homes during blackouts or brownouts. Utilities might also use the batteries as a form of storage to back up intermittent renewable sources, such as wind and solar. GM hopes the concept will help delay the inevitable recycling of used EV batteries. "The last thing we are looking at today is recycling," Kelly said. "Secondary life is our focus right now."

Industry analysts say there may be a long wait before anyone knows if utilities will accept the concept. "There's a limited volume of EVs out there right now," Laslau said. "There are thousands of batteries available, but in the grand scheme of things, that's a drop in the bucket for the grid. Until EV sales really pick up, it's going to be hard to get the attention of the major players in the grid space."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS:
An actual use for a Volt...
1 posted on 12/13/2012 9:03:07 PM PST by null and void
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To: null and void

Yeah..the battery and the engine from a Volt would make a good back up system, but there won’t be enough of them to amount to much.


2 posted on 12/13/2012 9:06:27 PM PST by Oldexpat
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To: null and void

Yeah..the battery and the engine from a Volt would make a good back up system, but there won’t be enough of them to amount to much.


3 posted on 12/13/2012 9:06:37 PM PST by Oldexpat
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To: null and void

Yeah..the battery and the engine from a Volt would make a good back up system, but there won’t be enough of them to amount to much.


4 posted on 12/13/2012 9:06:46 PM PST by Oldexpat
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To: null and void

Yeah..the battery and the engine from a Volt would make a good back up system, but there won’t be enough of them to amount to much.


5 posted on 12/13/2012 9:06:46 PM PST by Oldexpat
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To: null and void
Will they have a built-in fire suppression system?
6 posted on 12/13/2012 9:09:47 PM PST by FreedomOfExpression
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To: null and void

hmmm... if 5 batteries can power 5 homes for 2 hours...

can 1 battery power 1 home for 1-2 hours? or does it require them in series for some reason? (not an electrician)


7 posted on 12/13/2012 9:13:16 PM PST by sten (fighting tyranny never goes out of style)
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To: null and void
I understand the Volt battery manufacturer, A123 Systems, is in bankruptcy and may be sold to a Chinese firm. If this happens, the battery manufacturer execs won't get their Obamabucks “stimulus” payments.

As to how well these used EV battery packs work, make certain they're in an out building that won't threaten your home if they catch fire. (Volt battery packs don't have a good reputation in this regard.)

8 posted on 12/13/2012 9:15:34 PM PST by MasterGunner01
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To: null and void

It will never match up to my gasoline powered Generac generator.


9 posted on 12/13/2012 9:27:41 PM PST by Wiggins
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To: Oldexpat

You can say that again! :)


10 posted on 12/13/2012 9:32:53 PM PST by Smittie
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To: null and void

I’ve always believed that that there has to be a way each house could have its own power generator. The power companies would no doubt have that outlawed though. I believe Nikola Tesla figured out how, but he learned that the robber barons of his day (or today’s) aren’t interested in electricity that they can’t meter.


11 posted on 12/13/2012 9:51:11 PM PST by Smittie
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To: null and void

Sounds like they would make a good surge suppressor for a house.


12 posted on 12/13/2012 9:54:20 PM PST by Paleo Conservative (Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not really out to get you.)
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To: Red Badger

Ping


13 posted on 12/13/2012 10:25:54 PM PST by Army Air Corps (Four Fried Chickens and a Coke)
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To: null and void
Industry analysts say the concept needs years of testing before it can be called viable.

Another way of saying this will never be viable. If it were going to work it would work today.

14 posted on 12/13/2012 10:29:55 PM PST by Moonman62 (The US has become a government with a country, rather than a country with a government.)
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To: null and void

Or.......I could just use a gas-powered generator.

And be better off........


15 posted on 12/13/2012 10:40:56 PM PST by mowowie
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To: null and void
An old Li-Ion battery is not something one needs to keep around. Their diminished capacity at storing energy implies that they need to be frequently charged - and that energy will be wasted as the batteries self-discharge and generate heat. Low capacity of these batteries requires several of them to be combined to produce some reliable power for a few hours. New inverters need to be built specifically for these configurations, and they will be very expensive. Fire is likely to occur eventually, so these batteries must be installed in a fireproof enclosure.

Wouldn't it be better to just, say, not have blackouts? Perhaps the grid can be upgraded, new power plants built, or something like that? Fixing the problem with band-aids is not very smart.

But of course there are some serious blackouts, like after a hurricane. In those situations those batteries will be useless because they will last only a few hours and cannot be recharged until the power is back. Perhaps they would be OK coupled to solar panels, but I think a hurricane-damaged area is the last place on Earth, except underground, where installation of fragile solar panels is recommended. Hurricane relief requires compact but very powerful, and easily replenishable energy sources - like oil, LNG, gasoline. It is neither the right time nor the right place for fiddling with delicate electronics and hoping for clear skies.

I guess some geeks could use these batteries on their properties. They would build the necessary inverters, and they would connect them to their solar panels. That would be done not because it makes sense, but because it's a fun project for engineers. Everyone else who has solar panels uses the grid as their "battery" - and that battery has excellent reliability, it can never be overcharged.

16 posted on 12/13/2012 11:29:17 PM PST by Greysard
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To: null and void
It's probably going to be another five to 10 years before we can fully quantify and understand the wear on the batteries. Right now, we don't really know what a Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf battery would look like after a decade of real-world use. Even with accelerated testing, it's still difficult to predict.

Gotta love it!

Translation: I'd be surprised if 50% are not useless after 10 years.

17 posted on 12/14/2012 1:57:49 AM PST by Paul R. (We are in a break in an Ice Age. A brief break at that...)
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To: null and void

What about the other 99,999,992 homes?


18 posted on 12/14/2012 4:11:10 AM PST by BobL (Did you know that the Chinese now buy close to twice as many new cars as Americans each year?)
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To: Smittie
This one works just fine for me.


19 posted on 12/14/2012 4:26:41 AM PST by Fresh Wind
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To: null and void

I had a chance to buy some surplus sub batteries years ago.
Its not difficult to make your own heavy duty lead acid types.
Old fish tanks work well all you need then is the plates and acid.


20 posted on 12/14/2012 6:10:56 AM PST by Eye of Unk (A Civil Cold War in America is here, its already been declared.)
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To: MasterGunner01
"A123 Systems, is in bankruptcy and may be sold to a Chinese firm. If this happens, the battery manufacturer execs won't get their Obamabucks “stimulus” payments."
21 posted on 12/14/2012 6:46:07 AM PST by norwaypinesavage (Galileo: In science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of one individual)
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