An afterlife for the electric car?

What do you do with the battery in your electric vehicle when it doesn’t have enough juice to run the car anymore?

That’s been one of the major question marks out there as electric vehicles have gone mainstream.

People have been talking for years about repackaging and repurposing the battery packs, and now General Motors is working with a California-based company to test how to turn Volt batteries into home energy storage devices once they can no longer hold enough charge to run a vehicle, according to a report on the New York Times blog.

In a demonstration, the prototype--five packs lashed together in an array that is supposed to provide two hours of electricity for three to five average houses--was providing power for lighting and audiovisual equipment in a structure in San Francisco.

“The batteries were hardly challenged,” according to the Times story.

Why does it matter? Most important is that providing a market for used vehicle power packs will give them a resale value that will lower the cost of ownership.

In addition, the used packs could shore up weak spots on the grid or absorb energy from solar panels and wind machines and deliver it in a steady stream.

When a battery pack is no longer suitable for a car, “only 30 percent or less of its life has been used,” Pablo Valencia, G.M.’s senior manager for battery life cycle management, said in a statement. “This leaves a tremendous amount of life that can be applied to other applications.”

The New York Times