A second life for EV batteries?depends on how long the first


Hans Eric Melin, founder of Circular Energy Storage (CES) Consulting, which tracks battery numbers and prices, said: “EV batteries only last eight to 10 years, and then the owners replace them. The assumption is incorrect,” , said. “It’s going to be tricky to make Second Life work.”

While this is a possible solution for buses, trucks and other commercial vehicles, mass reuse of passenger car batteries would take much longer.

The idea of ​​second-life energy storage is simple in theory.

In theory, as EV batteries drop below 80%-85% capacity after eight to ten years of use, they could be repurposed to power buildings and even balance local and national grids.

Investors who believe in a circular economy, in which products and materials can be repaired and reused, have given around $1 billion to nearly 50 startups around the world, according to Reuters calculations.

Plus, automakers from Mercedes to Nissan have built their own Second Life businesses.

The problem is a dearth of old EV batteries, and it shows no signs of easing.

The rising average lifespan of fossil fuel vehicles on U.S. roads is now at a record 12.5 years, according to S&P Global Mobility, suggesting that many electric vehicles will continue to be on the road for years to come even with depleted batteries .

“The 80% threshold is an arbitrary number that doesn’t reflect actual EV usage,” said CES’s Merlin.

Elmar Zimmerling, automotive business development manager at German secondary battery start-up Fenecon, said there was currently “virtually no market for secondary batteries” because electric cars produced a decade ago were still in use, although he predicted a “battery tsunami” within the next five years. .

Twice the price of a new product

Competition from companies that use EV batteries to power everything from fossil-fuel classic cars to boats will cost $235 per kilowatt-hour by the end of 2022, about as much as a major automaker, according to CES. Twice the price of buying a new battery.

The long-range Tesla Model 3 is equipped with a 75KWh battery pack. At that price, it would sell for $17,625 on the used market.

Car and battery makers are increasingly offering energy storage systems using new types of batteries — from Tesla to Britain’s AMTE Power and even Croatian electric sports car maker Rimac.

Although recycling is more energy-intensive and therefore carbon-intensive, recycling also creates another form of competition for reuse, as the demand for battery materials makes them economically attractive.

“The big question is if you have a very valuable raw material in your battery and you ask ‘how can I get the most out of it?’ The answer is that recycling might be better.” Thomas Becker, head of sustainability at BMW ( Thomas Becker, said the company has secondary battery storage facilities at its Leipzig plant.

surge in demand

As intermittent renewable energy plays a bigger role, the need for storage of spent batteries could soar.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency estimates that global grid storage battery capacity could rise to 680 GWh by 2030, from 16 GWh at the end of 2021.

The U.K. alone spends around £1 billion ($1.27 billion) a year shutting down wind farms when the grid doesn’t need power — and there’s currently no way to store it due to battery shortages. It also often has to buy electricity from Europe when electricity is in short supply.

US start-up Smartville has found a solution by buying battery packs from electric vehicles written off by insurance companies. Because they were unable to assess the extent and cost of even minor damage to EV batteries, entire vehicles (often with almost 100 percent battery capacity) were scrapped.

CEO Antoni Tong estimates that by 2026, more than 1 GWh of recycled batteries will enter the US market annually.

He said the company was trying to negotiate directly with insurers because refurbishers and overseas buyers often outbid the company in salvage auctions for Tesla batteries.

disappear into the wild

The biggest problem is that people keep their vehicles for longer. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho resident Jonathan Rivera articulated the challenge.

He became the third owner last September when he bought a used 2011 Nissan Leaf for $3,750.

After 12 years of use, the driving range of electric vehicles has dropped from 120 miles to 40 miles (64 kilometers).

That’s no problem for Rivera, who uses it for his 18-mile commute and forgoes the heater in the winter because it drains the battery.

He just sold the car for $3,000 to pay off credit card debt, but wants another used EV.

“That car met 90 percent of my driving needs,” Rivera said. “If handled properly, it should last another five or six years.”

Many cars disappear even after their owners leave – in the UK, for example, the figure is around 20% – and are often sold overseas.

“A Nissan Leaf that’s been sitting in the wild for 10 years and people can’t even see where the battery is?” Asad Hussain, partner at mobility-focused private equity firm Mobility Impact Partners express. “How do you get it back?”

Industry officials say commercial vehicles offer the best hope yet for the second use of batteries.

For example, London-based startup Zenobe works with bus companies that want to go electric. They buy the buses, but Zenobe buys and manages the batteries, which are then used for secondary energy storage.

Since 2017, Zenobe has raised approximately $1.2 billion in debt and equity financing. The company has 435 megawatt-hours of batteries in about 1,000 electric buses in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, a number set to grow to 3,000 by 2025.

Founder director Steven Meersman said that once the UK’s 40,000 buses are all electrified, they will have 16 GWh of batteries on board – around a third of the UK’s peak demand in 2022.

“This is a gigafactory waiting to happen,” he said.

First published date: June 26, 2023 at 12:00 noon Indian Standard Time


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