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First raft of EV batteries hits the end of the road. Here’s where they go to 'die'

National Post logo National Post 2019-01-18 National Post Staff
a sign on the side of a road: Toyota's rendering of a next-generation 7-Eleven with a bank (left) of repurposed automotive batteries.© Toyota Co. Toyota's rendering of a next-generation 7-Eleven with a bank (left) of repurposed automotive batteries.

EV batteries don’t ride off into the sunset when they’re done, they go to the corner store and chill.

That’s one of the second revenue streams developed for the first raft of batteries now hitting the end of their operational cycle — 10 years in an electric or hybrid car and four years in a more heavily used bus or taxi,

Used EV batteries typically provide fewer kilometres of driving per charge and require more frequent plug-ins, but still retain 50 to 70 percent capacity.

In less demanding applications, that residual capacity spells another seven to 10 years of productive use.

So, rather than trash used batteries — China, in fact, expressly forbade the practice in August — or recycle them for raw materials such as cobalt, automakers and other companies have begun to pursue a second revenue stream from the same product.

a close up of a motorcycle: The flat battery pack spans the entire length of the Chevrolet Bolt's floor and is integrated into the chassis.© Chevrolet The flat battery pack spans the entire length of the Chevrolet Bolt's floor and is integrated into the chassis.

The batteries are stripped from an auto chassis and broken down into smaller modules to be repackaged and reused.

For example, Toyota is installing end-of-life batteries from vehicles such as the Prius hybrid outside 7-Eleven stores in Japan in 2019.

When solar panels generate power in excess of store demand, the batteries charge; when there is a shortage, the batteries help run the soda coolers and other appliances in the stores.

In another application, Sweden’s Box of Energy assembles 20 battery modules recovered from Volvo hybrid cars into a single cabinet the size of a refrigerator that stores energy from rooftop solar panels to run elevators and lights.

By 2040, a third of the global fleet will be electric (an estimated 559 million vehicles) with automobiles having already surpassed consumer electronics as the biggest user of lithium ion batteries.

In fact, within the next six years, retired batteries are expected to amount to 3.4 million packs — up from 55,000 in 2018.

“The car manufacturers have an upcoming problem and one that we are already starting to see: this massive volume of batteries,” Johan Stjernberg, chief executive officer of Box of Energy AB, told Bloomberg News.

“The market will be enormous for second-life applications with storage.”

The flat battery pack spans the entire length of the Chevrolet Bolt’s floor and is integrated into the chassis.
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