Chevy Volt Batteries May Be Recycled as Emergency Home Power Supplies

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Chevy Volt batteries get reused in a power generator

GM and ABB developed this prototype backup storage unit that could power a small group of homes or small businesses during a power outage. The unit also could be used to store energy collected during off-peak hours, when some electric utility companies charge less per kilowatt-hour, then that power could be used from the storage unit during peak hours to avoid paying the higher peak electricity rates. (Photo courtesy General Motors.)

There has been a lot of talk about what happens to the batteries in hybrid and electric vehicles once those batteries are no longer suitable for use powering an automobile. General Motors says Chevy Volt batteries could be recycled as emergency power packs for homes and businesses.

That’s because the batteries typically aren’t fully used up when they no longer hold a suitable charge for moving a car down the road, according to Pablo Valencia, GM senior manager of battery lifecycle management.

“”In many cases, when an EV battery has reached the end of its life in an automotive application, only 30 percent or less of its life has been used,” Valencia said. “This leaves a tremendous amount of life that can be applied to other applications like powering a structure before the battery is recycled.”

GM refers to it as “secondary use” rather than “recycling,” choosing to use the “recycling” term to describe what happens when the batteries are no longer suitable for such secondary uses.

GM and power and automation company ABB developed what they call an Energy Storage Inverter system. Containing five used Chevy Volt battery packs, the unit provided 25 kW and 50 kWh of energy to provide all the power for lighting and audiovisual equipment used in an “off-grid” structure during a November demonstration event.

ABB Senior Vice President for Business Development in North America, Allen Burchett said the technology would be further tested in a smart-grid environment soon.

“We will be installing it on the grid soon to complete the technical evaluation, and this will tell us all what smart grid applications are possible, like back-up power, reducing energy cost, strengthening utilities’ distribution systems and storing surplus renewable energy,” Burchett said.

Though both the Volt and Nissan’s Leaf have shown the ability for their electrified cars to pump emergency power back into the house when the power grid fails– providing, for instance, enough juice to keep the refrigerated foods cold and run a few lights in the house for a few hours– this is the first example of taking used battery packs from one of those cars and packaging them as a backup power station capable of providing power to a group of homes or businesses.

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  • danwat1234

    This is a very good idea and makes perfect sense. Unfortunately the majority of consumers don’t have a clue and still believe that a Hummer is greener than a Prius (Or an electric car) because of the toxicity of the batteries. Newbies they are.