Are Second Life EV batteries a game-changer for micro-grid owners and the grid?
Second-life electric vehicle batteries can reduce costs and provide environmental benefits to microgrid owners and utilities.
But getting them to work at a reasonable cost is not always easy.
Here’s what happens with electric vehicle batteries before they find new life: They are typically removed after about 10 years, leaving up to 80% of the capacity available for other uses, said AJ Perkins, president of Instant On, which provides micro-grids and nano-grids and is now working to include second life batteries in its projects.
Second-life batteries are particularly useful in stationary storage applications that require less frequent cycles (100 to 300 cycles per year). If they are not reused, they must be discarded or recycled, creating environmental challenges.
McKinsey estimates that compared to new batteries, second life batteries are 30-70% cheaper.
Multiple advantages of second use
Instant On is working with NICE America Research – an incubator for China Energy that is researching clean energy and other ways to move to a low-carbon economy – to test second-life batteries with three of the pilot projects of Instant On in multi-family homes, cannabis indoor grow facilities and a gas station micro-network.
âThe goal is to show the viability of using second life batteries because they will be cheaper than the ones we use in our first life batteries,â Perkins said.
Lowering capital costs for microgrids isn’t the only benefit of using second-life batteries in microgrids, Perkins said. Microgrid operators gain resilience, reducing utility costs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Additionally, when used by utility customers, batteries can provide utility benefits.
“The other beneficiary will be the utilities as they will now have an asset on the customer site at the customer’s expense,” Perkins said.
By leveraging customer-owned microgrids, utilities will have access to electricity during demand response events when the microgrids become isolated from the grid during times of high energy demand. Utilities will also be able to use their customers’ batteries to soak up excess renewable energy, Perkins said.
“Utilities will have a virtual power plant for which they did not have to pay or allocate land,” he said.
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Microgrids that include second life batteries can also help delay investments in transmission and distribution assets. And users behind the meter can use the batteries to take advantage of power arbitrage opportunities by storing renewable energy for use during peak hours, which provides greater flexibility and grid tightening, Perkins said. .
âWe believe we can achieve these savings on CapEx and hope to prove it with these pilots,â he said.
Classification of second-life electric vehicle batteries
It may seem simple to acquire cheaper second-life electric vehicle batteries and implement them in microgrids. But there are challenges that need to be overcome before batteries can work their magic, said Surinder Singh, director of engineering and leader of the Center of Excellence for Energy Systems Solutions for NICE America Research.
The accepted health of a secondary-use battery is typically 70 to 80 percent, he said. They can have higher or lower health states.
A number of factors affect battery life and health, including the type of driver who drove the electric vehicle – aggressive or gentle – and the climate in which the vehicle has been driven. These factors can degrade batteries at different rates.
âIn second-use batteries, if you start with 300 watt-hours, after the batteries have reached their lifespan and gone out some might be 280 watt-hours and others 150 watt-hours. . Their performance tends to be limited by the less performing cells in the battery, âSingh said. Batteries are grouped into packs in electric vehicles, he explained.
One way to determine the health of the battery is to cycle it and give it a rating. These studies often involve the disassembly of the battery packs.
âClassifying them and estimating their state of health comes at a cost. You spend capital and labor to do it, âhe said. This can increase the cost of second life batteries.
NICE America Research has developed a less expensive battery rating and rating system. âThe key is how we can use the batteries without disassembly and reassembly. We are spending minimal resources to get a measure of health, âSingh said.
The company purchases used batteries and uses its second life battery technology to monitor and manage the characteristics of the battery. âOur management algorithm adjusts battery performance using actively monitored data,â Singh said.
The plan is to test NICE America Research’s technology with Instant On customers. NICE America will turn the efforts into a new company and bring the second-life battery technology to market in 2022.
âIt’s ready to go. We have to make it on a large scale; it’s ready for commercialization. But now we have to develop the supply chain and manufacturing,â Singh said.
The top priority is to use the second life batteries in the micro-grids on both sides of the meter with an emphasis on helping those who are subject to blackouts and blackouts for public safety, a Singh said.
âThis application has the highest potential impact on the network and utilities,â said Perkins. âIf a significant percentage of solar panels were to become micro-grids or nano-grids, that would be a game-changer. “
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