What happens to that expensive lithium-ion battery in your electric vehicle when its useful life in your car ends? The anticipated growth of EVs and hybrids will result in tens or hundreds of thousands of used batteries in the coming years.
Do the batteries get thrown into a landfill? Recycled? Or can that battery pack find a second life on the electrical grid?
It's still early days for the role of electro-chemical energy storage on the electrical grid -- but utility Duke Energy, grid hardware giant ABB, and automotive manufacturer General Motors are deploying automotive battery packs to understand their usefulness on the electrical grid. Company spokespeople called this "the world's first research effort with EV batteries" for grid applications.
ABB will integrate battery packs supplied by GM into an energy storage system and provide them to Duke for installation on the grid "somewhere in its service territory." Duke spokespeople said that the goal would be to look at the value streams that can be gained from this new application. Applications include:
- Back-up power during power outages
- Reducing peak power and spikes in demand
- Strengthening the distribution system
- Integrating renewables and managing intermittency
- Frequency regulation
"Batteries located close to the customer will help integrate solar power" according to the Duke spokesperson. GM is providing five battery packs for this project. ABB adds an inverter, electronics, and integration to the bare battery. The Chevy Volt’s battery will still have significant energy storage capacity, even after its electric vehicle life, according to GM.
The five used Chevrolet Volt batteries will be integrated into a system able to provide two hours of electricity for three to five typical American homes. This application is typically referred to as Community Energy Storage or CES and its economics and technological robustness remain to be proven. The system and the grid will have to be able to intelligently move power in and out of the batteries and do so in a way that benefits the utility and the consumer.
There are questions regarding this type of energy storage deployment and this type of collaboration can help to begin to answer these questions. If the price of energy storage and batteries has remained the obstacle, certainly the price of a ten-year old EV battery could change the economics of community-scale and grid-scale energy storage.