So now we are told that an EV battery may still have 70% of it's useful capacity left when it is no longer suitable for automotive use. That is one more very good reasons why the electric vehicle as we now know it is a poor choice. The other poor choice is the amount of affort to recover the cells and assemble them in a useable array. OR, is the plan to simply plug in the retired EV batteries with no modifications to them at all? That would be easy but probably have some problems after a while.
Now on that other assertion about using them for off-grid energy systems, they still need to be charged with energy that comes from someplace, and the conversion of "freee" energy into a form that we can utilize is not free, it is quite expensive. That has not changed yet. The main reason that we use hydrocarbon based energy is that we know how to do it, and it seems to be cheaper and simpler than using other forms of stored energy.
One more thing is that the gas engine in your car can deliver the same power until the tank runs dry as it can when the tank is just filled. It does not work that way for any battery yet, although some are better than others.
I have often thought it would be better to have a battery or bank of batteries supplying power to an inverter or dc motor running a ac gnerator. The batteries would be charged off the grid. In case of a power failure the ac power would provide the power to led lighting. The other necessary appliances would be provided power by switching between them. I can not think of any home appliance in a home that would require more than 10 amps of power at one time. I am quite sure you could operate the necessary appliances for several days off the grid. This system would go a long way to providing necessary confort to a home owner in the event of a power outage.
You raise a bunch of good points, Contrarian. Ultimately, this technology might just appeal in niche applications. I keep thinking of California's "one-third renewables" energy mandate. Could that be a niche opportunity?
When I first read this, I thought of The Onion (http://www.theonion.com/articles/chevy-to-sticker-cars-environmental-impact,27222/). The claim: "We are going to turn junk into useable energy". The reality: Junk meets no standards. If this were a viable idea why not recycle our lead-acid car batteries right now? If you guessed that it would not be a viable business you would be correct. Only the government (subsidized by tax dollars) could provide such systems. A few volt car have burned down houses already, now we can do the same to whole subdivisions!
I agree with wlawson and contrarian. If they put an inverter in the volt we would have emergency power available. A thousand dollar option to replace a $500 home generator. Current gas equipped cars could be sold with optional generators today on PTOs at far higher efficiency.
Then after all this, the batteries will still need to be scrapped. In my backyard or yours?
The problem with any battery no matter what the chemistry is that when it starts to degrade it not only has reduced capacity but reduced efficiency. Keeping cells matched in an older pack becomes increasingly difficult which contributes even more to the impact on pack capacity and efficiency - a pack is only as stong as its weakest cell. Once a battery exhibits a decline in capacity, it's ability to continue delivering Ah at any level is very limited - the number of charge/discharge cycles from 80% capacity to 50% is a small fraction of what 100% to 80% was. The step from 50% to "resistor" is very few useful cycles and very low efficiency. I guess a use model could be created where even at such reduced capacity and efficiency these packs can still useful but I believe it would be a pretty niche application. That's great for niche applications but not where the problem really needs to be solved, namely $/Ah for new packs. "Recycling" a $25,000 EV pack so that you can help run a few homes' A/C during peak demand seems more like a solution in search of a problem. I predict that the overhead (transportation, testing, repackaging, integration and failure mitigation) in processing these expired packs into an alternate application will far outweigh their value in Ah delivery.
One of the options the Chev volt could provide is having a 20 amp or 30 amp 120 v or 240 v outlet as an option. then in an emergency the car could be used to power the refigerator etc. This would be a very inexpensive option probably and the system already has the inverter, smarts to generate electricity.
This option would make the purchse of a hybrid much more attractive and it would provide an additional use for the car in an emergency.
Also If the Hybrid SUV or pickup could provide 30 amps at 240 then they could power most small RV's and or provide power at a job site. using the hybrid with the battery would also provide a very efficient generator system as the engine would only run intermittantly as needed to recharge the battery.
this concept is being evaluated for hybrid vehicles in the army as then the vehicles could be used as a generator in camp etc without needing another seperate generator system.
Weldon, good points. I worked at a software company with a guy who had a business recycling the metals from computers. There are small amounts of gold, etc. in the semiconuctors and circuit boards. The business failed (as most did at the time, 20 years ago, or so) becuase the price of the recovered commodities went way down. The costs were high as well. This is a tough business.
I would see the real market for the batteries being the utilities or renewable energy providers. They might fit into a substation or on a wind farm. I agree that there would be little or no market at the individual level.
I tend to be cynical about this sort of re-application in general, but in this specific case it addresses actual concerns. If I were a "greenie" and building a wind or solar generator for my home, I'd certainly prefer a single recycled EV battery over a dozen or so 12V auto batteries for storage. Apart from the electrocution-causing high voltage, this would be a do-it-yourselfer's dream, if they could find a cheap EV battery to buy. Imagine a remote vacation cabin in the woods that you use a few times a year. Such a battery with a green generator would mean the home could be completely off the grid, with cost-free power and no fuel storage. Makes a great place to hide during the zombie apocalypse, too! (that'll be the tag line for a late-night infomercial)
I'm not sure the government has a central place in this - I'm also mainly a free-market guy. I could see brokers set up to find and distribute the recycled batteries for a profit (or just ebay). Transport's gonna be huge, unfortunately, adding to resale cost. But there are lots of individual homeowners installing solar panels these days - some might be set up well enough to use these for storage- maybe a bit of overkill, but... The lead-time on this might be simply waiting for EVs to crash.
Reuse is a good idea. One needs to compute the cost for distribution and redeployment. I doubt seriously that many home owners or neighborhoods are going to foot the cost for the alternate battery source for their cabin in the woods for infrequent power outag usage when one can simply buy a generator. I personally would buy a generator long before considering putting up a shack to house old battery packs in hopes that I might be productive during a short term power outage.
A search of the internet yielded the following analysis giving a bleak outlook for the recycling of the raw materials from a lithium ion battery based on material costs and difficulty of the process.
In many engineering workplaces, there’s a generational conflict between recent engineering graduates and older, more experienced engineers. However, a recent study published in the psychology journal Cognition suggests that both may have something to learn from another group: 4 year olds.
Conventional wisdom holds that MIT, Cal Tech, and Stanford are three of the country’s best undergraduate engineering schools. Unfortunately, when conventional wisdom visits the topic of best engineering schools, it too often leaves out some of the most distinguished programs that don’t happen to offer PhD-level degrees.
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