Images: GM

A Second Life for Volt Battery Packs

There are many studies and surveys currently being conducted in the field of hybrid/electric-drive vehicles. One research project by General Motors (maker of the Chevy Volt) in partnership with ABB Group deals with recycling and repurposing Volt battery packs that have reached the end of their useful life in the vehicle. The automaker predicts that when replacement occurs there will still be some 70 percent capacity left in the Lithium-Ion pack that is removed.

Part of the study showed the possibility that 33 battery packs will have enough storage capacity to power up to 50 homes for about four hours during a power outage.

Recently, GM and ABB demonstrated an energy storage system that combines a proven electric vehicle battery technology and a proven grid-tied electric power inverter. The two companies 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 is designed to store energy from the grid during low usage periods and redistribute it back to the grid during peak demand and the packs would be used as backup supplies during outages and brownouts. Using Volt battery cells, the ABB and GM team is 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.

Using Second-Hand Battery Packs Is a Viable Option

“Our tests so far have shown the viability of the GM-ABB solution in the laboratory and they have provided valuable experience to overcome the technical challenges,” said Pablo Rosenfeld, ABB’s program manager for Distributed Energy Storage Medium Voltage Power Products. “We are making plans now for the next major step – testing a larger prototype on an actual electric distribution system.”

Personally, I would like to see this as a possibility for EVs — especially the Volt — that exist today. I would love to be able to draw energy back out of my vehicle if, say, the power goes out at home and I just need to run the fridge and a couple of lights. I could recharge the vehicle when the power comes back on and if not I can still drive the vehicle using the onboard generator to supply the battery pack.