New Uses for Old Batteries

ABB and GM test Chevrolet electric vehicle batteries for storage and back-up power uses as well as selling power back to the grid.

Lithium batter development is moving fast, like the Chevy Volt on the road.
Lithium batter development is moving fast, like the Chevy Volt on the road.
When considering the product lifecycle of the battery systems used in hybrid and all-electric cars, the big question is: What will happen to the battery systems after they reach the end of their useful life in the vehicle? 

Finding practical answers to this questions is no small matter, especially when you consider that the battery system in the Chevy Volt, for example, will still have 70% of its useful life untapped when its automotive use is exhausted.

Some research conducted by General Motors predicts that secondary use of just 33 Volt batteries would have enough storage capacity to power up to 50 homes for approximately four hours during a power outage.

>> For more about the development of lithium batteries and the Chevy Volt, check out the new book, Bottled Lightning.

To conduct more research in this area, GM and ABB Group have signed an agreement to identify joint research and development projects around the reuse of Chevy Volt battery systems. Since the initiation of the GM and ABB agreement, the companies have demonstrated an energy storage system that combines electric vehicle battery technology and a proven grid-tied electric power converter. ABB and GM are building a prototype that could lead to Volt battery packs storing energy, including renewable wind and solar energy, and feeding it back to the grid. The system could store electricity from the grid during times of low usage to be used during periods of peak demand, saving customers and utilities money. The battery packs could also be used as back-up power sources during outages and brownouts. 

Using Volt battery cells for grid energy storage applications, the ABB and GM team is also building a prototype system for 25-kilowatt/50-kWh applications, about the same power consumption of five U.S. homes or small retail and industrial facilities. For this project, ABB has determined its existing power quality filter (PQF) inverter can be used to charge and discharge the Volt battery pack to take advantage of the system and enable utilities to reduce the cost of peak load conditions. The system can also reduce utilities’ needs for power control, protection and additional monitoring equipment. The team will soon test the system for back-up power applications. 

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