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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.

  • 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.

  • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @11:28AM (#42012075)

    A 10kW generator is *barely* enough to run 2 or 3 10,000BTU window air conditioners. I believe you need ~24kW of 220v capacity to start a normal 2-3 ton central air conditioner.

    It's a shame companies like Carrier, Rheem, etc can't put a little effort into designing central ac units that are "generator friendly" & can start with less inrush current. Like, maybe some kind of transmission that would allow the compressor to spin up slowly, instead of just soaking up 20+ kW for 3 seconds before settling down to half that amount. Or logic to start up the compressor, THEN the blower fan, instead of both at once.

  • Re:Doesn't add up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 17, 2012 @12:20PM (#42012377)

    They do. Newer units are starting to use inverter-driven compressor motors for variable speed. The actual reason to use them is higher efficiency while operating, but a very nice side-effect is virtually no inrush.

    I spend time on several off-grid / renewable-energy forums, and one of the biggest changes for off-grid homes recently is that you can buy inverter-driven mini-split AC units that can cool a (small) home from solar / battery banks without any issue. Several people set the unit to "low" in the morning, and let it run all day, draws only 300W. Won't keep the house cold, in fact the temp slowly climbs through the day, but only to 78 instead of 85-90.

    I have a portable AC unit (roll-around, with the flex hose to exhaust hot air out the window) that uses an inverter. 9000 BTU, draws 1200W or so while running, starts just fine with a little Honda EU2000i generator (1600W continuous, 2000W peak). The 9000 BTU mini-split (standard compressor) in my server closet won't even try to start, the generator just bogs down.

  • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @12:25PM (#42012421)

    I'm going to get modded down again.

    Fires during floods are caused by people with fire insurance, no flood insurance and lighters.

    Simple fact. Modding me down doesn't change it.

  • 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: []

  • They are already using EVs as whole-house backup power supplies in Japan. A Nissan Leaf, a relatively small car, has a 24KWh battery pack. You can run a typical Japanese house for a few days from that in the event of an emergency.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 17, 2012 @02:18PM (#42013205)

    I have a suspicious feeling that General Motors' motivation on this project is to find a place to reuse the batteries they have to replace after warranty replacements, rather than have to pay the costs of recycling or disposing of the hazardous metals.

    This shifts the cost of recycling and disposal onto the consumers, when the battery pack fails in their house.

    It gives GM additional revenue stream when you buy it at Home Depot. AND they don't have to pay for disposal. I am sure the environmentalists are creaming their pants when they hear how this plan monetizes and incentivizes "green" tech. But I see it as a ruse to displace costs to the consumer, and ultimately, harms the environment---do you really think that individual citizens will actually pay for proper lithium disposal when they can just bury it in their backyard for free???

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