GM testing new uses for spent EV batteries

powered by volt imageAfter Tesla announced a new stationary energy storage system last month, GM countered with a plan of its own. This one, however, is finding new uses for old car batteries.

A car is a beast of a thing to run on a battery, so EV batteries tend to have a shelf life somewhere around five to fifteen years, depending on the car and battery specifics. Drivers will feel a difference in performance after a few years, but that doesn’t render them completely useless. GM rolled out a plan to reuse spent batteries as stationary power sources.

GM is piloting its program at a data center in Milford. The batteries are coupled with sustainable energy produced through solar arrays and wind turbines. Any extra power is sent back into the grid.

Old EV batteries “retain as much as 80 percent of storage capacity after coming out of cars,” and the New York Times reports that this translates to about four hours worth of backup power for the test site in Milford.

Volt Data Center picture

Nissan, partnering with Green Charge Networks, recently announced a similar program, and is already aiming for commercial applications.

In a New York Times article, Karl Brauer, an analyst at Kelly Blue Book said this shift is in part a financial move for the manufacturers.

“The rest of the car can be recycled relatively easily, but that battery is going to be a much bigger deal to try to break down and turn into something else,” he said.

And it pays off. Research from from the Department of Energy’s Natural Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that reusing a battery will almost double its lifetime. The NREL estimates that we’ll start seeing real use of this technology in 2030, when a “critical mass” of PEVs will be ready to trade in their batteries.

Images courtesy of General Motors