It’s good to keep busy in retirement, which is what the first batch of batteries from electric and hybrid vehicles are doing now that they are hitting the age that they need to be retired. Instead of throwing the batteries away, where they would end up in landfills, The Japan Times News reports that the batteries will spend their golden years chilling beer at convenience stores in Japan, powering car-charging stations in California and storing energy for homes and grids in Europe.
Lithium-ion car and bus batteries can collect and discharge electricity for another seven to 10 years after being taken off the roads and some companies are working to find ways to reuse the technology as the stockpile of electric vehicle batteries is forecast to exceed 3.4 million by 2025, compared with about 55,000 this year. Automobiles have overtaken consumer electronics as the biggest users of lithium-ion batteries, according to Avicenne Energy.
China, where about half the world’s electric vehicles are sold, is implementing rules this month to make carmakers responsible for expired batteries and to keep them from being dumped as trash. The European Union has its own regulations, and the U.S. is expected to develop its own soon.
This has encouraged General Motors Co., BMW AG, Toyota Motor Corp., BYD Co. and several renewable-energy storage suppliers to create an aftermarket and extra profits for the devices. If a “second life” could be devised for them that can generate second revenue streams, it could help lower prices for electric vehicles.
Batteries are typically replaced after about a decade in family cars and four years in harder-working buses and taxis. A typical electric vehicle battery retains about 50 to 70 percent of its power capacity upon removal and while it can’t run a passenger vehicle, they’re ideal for less demanding tasks such as storing electricity from solar panels and wind turbines, and hoarding power from a regular grid connection when prices are low.
By 2040, more than half of sales of new cars and a third of the global fleet — equal to 559 million vehicles — will be electric. By 2050, companies will have invested about $550 billion in home, industrial and grid-scale battery storage, according to Bloomberg NEF.
Batteries from Nissan’s Leaf will soon help light streets in Namie, Japan, which is still recovering from the 2011 disaster at the nearby Fukushima nuclear plant.
Toyota, maker of the Prius hybrid, will install retired batteries at Japanese 7-Eleven stores to store power from solar panels, then use the power to help run drink coolers, fried chicken warmers and sausage grills. The BYD battery group uses secondhand packs to power wireless transmission towers and to help run one of China’s biggest energy-storage systems in Shenzhen.
Others are used to run elevators and lights in office buildings in Sweden and some will be adapted for use in homes and schools in England.