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Old Electric-Car Batteries Put Into Service For Home Energy Storage 198

Hugh Pickens writes "Josie Garthwaite writes that old electric car batteries degraded below acceptable performance levels for autos still have enough life to serve the grid for at least ten years with a prototype announced by GM and ABB lashing five Chevy Volt battery packs together in an array with a capacity of 10 kilowatt-hours — enough to provide electricity for three to five average houses for two hours. 'In a car, you want immediate power, and you want a lot of it,' says Alexandra Goodson. 'We're discharging for two hours instead of immediately accelerating. It's not nearly as demanding on the system.'" (Read on, below.)
Pickens continues: "Deployed on the grid, community energy storage devices could help utilities integrate highly variable renewables like solar and wind into the power supply, while absorbing spikes in demand from electric-car charging. 'Wind, it's a nightmare for grid operators to manage,' says Britta Gross, director of global energy systems and infrastructure commercialization for GM. 'It's up, down, it doesn't blow for three days. It's very labor-intensive to manage.' The batteries would allow for storage of power during inexpensive periods for use during expensive peak demand, or help make up for gaps in solar, wind or other renewable power generation. One final advantage of re-using electric car batteries is that the battery — the most expensive part of an electric car — remains an asset beyond its useful life in the vehicle. 'If there is a market in stationary power for spent batteries, consumers could recognize this as an increased resale value at end of life, however small,' says Kevin See."
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Old Electric-Car Batteries Put Into Service For Home Energy Storage

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  • by i ( 8254 ) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @09:45AM (#42011623)

    If you can reuse parts of your electric car for your household for economic benefit (and maybe as backup for blackouts) it makes these high priced cars more valuable and therefore expand the potential market.

    This will also potenially create a battery market for house backup for blackouts or accomodation to possible day to night price difference.
    Which also will expand the battery market. All this will lower the production unit costs for batteries.
    And here the cycle begin again... :)

  • For off-grid homes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by crow ( 16139 ) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @10:18AM (#42011737) Homepage Journal

    While I agree that this doesn't make much sense for most people--the cost of the electricity to keep them charged isn't worth having a few hours coverage in blackouts for most people, this is quite useful for people with off-grid homes in remote locations. I had friends building in a remote location, and running the power lines to the house would cost as much as a solar array with batteries to last through the night. With used electric car batteries, the cost of such a system would drop significantly.

    The idea isn't to have electric car owners make use of their worn-out batteries, but to create a market for them to sell them.

    • I had friends building in a remote location, and running the power lines to the house would cost as much as a solar array with batteries to last through the night. With used electric car batteries, the cost of such a system would drop significantly.

      The question here is startup costs versus operational costs. Solar panels and batteries both required maintenance and have to be replaced regularly... Power lines generally require little to no maintenance and require replacement only at great intervals.


    • the cost of the electricity to keep them charged isn't worth having a few hours coverage in blackouts for most people

      Surely once they're charged all you need is a trickle to keep them topped up? It's not like an electric car runs flat if you don't drive it for a week...

    • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

      What energy is taken to "keep them charged"? Where does it all go? The only possible outlet for it is heat from the batteries. So if you're doing it over times of year when the house needs heating anyway, then there'd be zero wasted energy. (But I find it hard to believe that even a small amount would be lost as heat).

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Actually, given net metering [wikipedia.org] and variable rate time of day [wikipedia.org] metering, it might be economical to charge your batteries at night (low power rates) and sell that back to the utility during peak periods (high rates). One would have to work out the economics. And be willing to live with the deleterious health effects of a smart meter [slashdot.org], of course.

      The best solution would be to install a battery system at the site of each wind turbine, making the control of the battery charge/discharge algorithm tightly coupled to i

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      Combine it with solar and it costs nothing to keep the batteries topped up. Batteries are just one more piece of the puzzle.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @10:21AM (#42011743) Journal
    The grid goes on the blink for so long in India, almost every (middle and higher class) homes have truck batteries that charge from the grid when the power is on and run fans, lights and TV when it is off. A typical truck battery powers a couple of fluorescent lights, and a couple of ceiling fan for about six hours. But they usually do not run air conditioners or refrigerators on batteries.. yet. Last trip I saw advertisement for "air conditioners specifically designed for inverters". (Inverter converts the DC current from the batteries to AC current for the mains. )

    In USA they do not have much use. For emergencies like Sandy, FEMA should simply develop a plan to send the fuel trucks from the army and drive around the affected neighborhoods and dispense fuel for cars in the drive way of homes. The municipalities can collect the cost of the fuel from the homeowners through utility bills later. And the collected money can be considered emergency grants from the federal govt to the municipalities. Once you have an assured supply of fuel in an emergency, we can use the hundreds of thousands of power plants that are already present in these locations.

    The hundreds of thousands of powerplants are typically four cylinder gasoline engines, and a good portion of them are six and eight cylinders, the automobile engines. Presently the alternator is sized to provide just enough electric power for the car. If we design a generator that runs at the right RPM, and connection kits that will allow it to be coupled to an car engine it would be very helpful. I am thinking of some kind of frame, a new serpentine belt, or some way to work off the belt driving the alternator. If FEMA funds the R&D to create these kits, builds them and stocks them, they can be deployed in an emergency.

    In an emergency so many people would happily stay at home and avoid driving around, if they can. But they are all forced to run around looking for food, gas and water. Municipalities should develop emergency plans where their residents simply text to some known number information like, "running short of water/food/gas", "Medical attention needed", "Number of young children = XX". They should consolidate and send around FEMA trucks to bring food/water/gas to them. If people have the peace of mind, they will stay home and let the roads free for people with real emergencies.

    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      just about every farm tractor has a "power take off" essentially an output shaft off the transmission or directly off the engine on smaller machines to run other equipment.

      I agree it would be really really nice if at least larger autos like pickups and SUVs had this; maybe with a little electronic interconnect to allow external device to control the throttle servo the cruise control ordinarily uses. Naturally safety interlocks to make sure this stuff is only usable when the main transmission is in neutral.

      • You can add a PTO to any American pickup. Just add a transfer case (or a second if 4x4).

        The rigs are called 'crawlers' (thought they only use the second low gear, kits are available). Leaving the PTO would put it into an inconvenient location. You will need another drive shaft to bring the power to the front/rear bumper. Maybe you can reuse the stock one as you will need a new, shortened, rear driveshaft and lengthened front driveshaft.

        That said a typical healthy American V8 is too big for a household

    • As someone who lives in the south and has gone through a lot of hurricanes I don't think your idea really makes sense.

      If you properly prepare for a hurricane then running short of water/food/gas isn't a problem during the period when it would be unsafe to drive around to get those things.
      Portable or whole-home generators that already exist make much more sense and are probably cheaper than designing something new to attach to cars.

      And quite honestly the only thing people NEED power for in these situations i

    • You want to couple the generator to the crankshaft directly. A vee-belt that you can reasonably run from the existing pulley can only transmit a couple horsepower before it gives up, five tops. A multi-vee belt, maybe twice that. The easiest thing to do is to buy a generator and couple it to the crankshaft. The cheapest thing to do would be to get rare earth magnets anywhere you can, then inset them into the existing flywheel, and build a generator based around that. You have to get incredibly great toleran

    • If we design a generator that runs at the right RPM, and connection kits that will allow it to be coupled to an car engine it would be very helpful.

      Now you've just gone off the rails completely... It's one thing to draw a little power from your car/battery in an emergency to power a few critical appliances (raido, cell phone, flashlights, etc.), and quite another to try and press them into extended, heavy-duty service.

      Automobiles aren't designed for stationary use to begin with. You'd have cars overheatin

  • by SpzToid ( 869795 ) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @10:22AM (#42011747)

    This development will help a lot of folks who don't have reliable access to power. Just because it doesn't matter where you live doesn't mean this feat of technology does not matter to other people somewhere else.

    http://www.haitianproject.org/updates/2012/9/living-son [haitianproject.org]

  • The problems with these kinds of distributed system aren't so much technological anymore... but economic and operational. Who pays for them? Who maintains them? Who operates them? Who manages operations?

    These are the hard questions to answer. (Though no doubt, I'll get plenty of replies with a variety of shallow and ill thought out answers...) These are the questions that need to have at least trial solutions before the system can be rolled out.

  • Why five houses for two hours? Does it not power one house for ten hours? I would prefer the latter...

    • Why five houses for two hours? Does it not power one house for ten hours? I would prefer the latter...

      Because it's not being designed for homeowners, it's being designed for renewable energy generators to smooth out power swings inherent in renewable power sources; like when a 1.5 MW wind turbine blow a gearbox and catches on fire.

  • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @10:38AM (#42011837)

    I looked up the capacity of Prius batteries in case anyone is interested: Normal = 1.31kWh (MH), Plug-in = 4.4hWh (LI).

  • by SternisheFan ( 2529412 ) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @10:55AM (#42011917)
    In Long Island, N.Y., my buddy's area lost power for almost a week from Sandy, but by using backup battery power he and his family had the only lights in his neighborhood. (He works for a company that provides backup power for office buildings, cellphone towers, phone/computer systems,...) The neighbors all wondered why he had power when they didn't. It's simply because he is prepared for outages when they occur.
  • This is not the power capability (except at a minimum draw) for 2-3 houses. If you've got ANY high-demand devices such as an on-demand water heater, oven/range, or a washer/dryer- you're going to burn through the pack MUCH faster- it'll almost power a SINGLE house fully.

  • deep cycle marine batteries, why have two hours when you can have twelve or more

    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      Right from a cost/capacity/maintainability standpoint wet lead acid batteries make much more sense. These MH and LI batteries virtues are density and weight neither of which nearly as big a concern when you don't need have them mobile. The only reason they are interesting at all is the economics, where their performance might be to degraded for automotive use but they could see a second use life as stand by power.

      Still I find it highly questionably. Most LI batteries work near original capacity for their

    • Look into NiFe batteries [wikipedia.org], tollerate overcharging/overdischarging very well as well as any over abuse you can throw at them

    • by olden ( 772043 )

      Li-ion in general, and variants currently used for EVs (e.g. NMC) in particular, dramatically outperforms lead-acid:
      - 3 to 5x the energy density
      - 5 to 20x higher sustained discharge current
      - 10 to 20x faster charge
      - 2 to 10x cycle life
      - higher charging efficiency, lower self-discharge, longer calendar life so less maintenance, etc. And all those figures keep improving, albeit slowly.

      EV battery packs are expected to be retired when they reach 70 to 50% capacity. As Li-ion's capacity fade slows down with age

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday November 17, 2012 @11:24AM (#42012059) Homepage Journal

    This plan has been built into the Nissan LEAF program since the beginning. The recycling plan for their batteries is to build power storage substations, not just for a few houses. This is a better plan because it keeps the batteries out of people's houses and off their block, for the most part, while not moving them so far away that they won't do any good.

  • Wind, it's a nightmare for grid operators to manage

    Instead of generating electricity directly in wind turbines, generate compressed air. Transport that energy in pipes and store it on land. On land you have an compressed air driven electricity generator for generating your electricity.

    Now you go from peak energy to base load energy. With this, wind will not be an nightmare for grid operators to mange anymore.

    The different to use compressed air as a storage for energy instead of batteries, is that you

    • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
      Use hydro pump storage instead, for large scale installs it's the only power storage that can be enlarged with a steam shovel
      • by fredan ( 54788 )
        I don't think that you can use hydro as a energy resource in a car or a bus. With compressed air you can.
    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      compressed gases are usually a terrible way to store energy in terms of loss.

      • by fredan ( 54788 )

        compressed gases are usually a terrible way to store energy in terms of loss.

        I'm talking about compressed air, which I think, is some kind of a gas.

        If you store energy in a battery, it will loss it's energy over time. I think this is the same for a compressed air tank...

        • Compressed air heats up during compression. It then losses pressure as it cools. It also condenses water, which will cause corrosion in the tank unless the water is regularly drained. Which also costs energy/pressure.

          If the tank is ignored it will eventually fail. 150psi*30squarefeet*144squareinches/squarefoot is enough energy to throw pieces of metal hard enough to cut you in half.

          Also compressors are loud and annoying. All tanks/plumbing leak, some just leak faster then others.

  • by bjs555 ( 889176 ) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @12:35PM (#42012465)

    The FA talks about Li-ion batteries but I've read about people buying dead car batteries real cheap and bringing them back to life by desulfating them with a simple circuit based on a 555 timer. The idea is to pulse the battery at its resonant frequency of about 4 MHz with high voltage pulses to break up the lead sulfate crystals that often cause a battery to fail. Car batteries might be a cheaper alternative to Li-ion batteries for a home system. Here's a link to the circuit:
    http://www.reuk.co.uk/Battery-Desulfation.htm [reuk.co.uk]

    • I've read about people buying dead car batteries real cheap and bringing them back to life by desulfating them

      There are a lot of failure modes for car batteries.

      You can't see the reason for the failure just by looking at it before buying it.

      If you buy one with other (eg. physical) damage, you've wasted your time and money.

      Even if you're lucky, your desulfated battery is going to have lower capacity and shorter useful life than a new battery.

      The "core charge" for a dead battery runs about 1/4th the cost of a

  • Are tons of proud americans bragging against each other how much power their home needs.

    Without understanding concepts like peak power, or the insight that they are idiots if any of their claims are true.

  • Aren't ordinary car lead batteries easy to recycle into new batteries by the manufacturers.. or is there some part which can not be recycled? Chemistry not my strong point.

"We Americans, we're a simple people... but piss us off, and we'll bomb your cities." -- Robin Williams, _Good Morning Vietnam_