One of the biggest criticisms of electric cars is what happens to their strong batteries when they break down and, in plug-in vehicles, must be removed.
Electric batteries are not only expensive to replace, but also require highly skilled labor to extract the precious metals they contain, and even then are difficult to recycle – and this can lead to huge piles of waste, experts warn.
German automaker BMW has found a solution for its long-range electric vehicles that give their batteries a second life as a mobile powertrain to provide a solution for charging other cars with an add-on.
The car brand will supply the British energy storage company with a deactivated battery module from BMW and a Mini electric model that can be used in a mobile unit.
The aim is to provide a sustainable used battery model that loses capacity over time and is deemed inefficient in an electric car after years of use.
As part of a new partnership with the auto giant, Off Grid Energy has developed the first prototype of a mobile charger powered by a lithium-ion battery module from the Mini Electric development vehicle.
It has an output of 40 kWh, fast charging 7.2 kW and will be used next year at BMW and Mini UK events.
As more battery modules become available over time, these devices can use multiple EV batteries to create a combined system with capacities up to 180 kWh and capable of delivering up to 50 kW of power.
“When this unit is used to replace the traditional method of generating electricity temporarily, the battery module will at least double the CO2 reduction achieved when it is first used in a car and continue to have a positive effect on reducing CO2 emissions,” the company said. for energy storage.
Graham Greave, CEO of BMW Group UK, commented on the partnership: “The BMW Group will have 25 models of electrified roads by 2023 – half of which are fully electric.
“We are excited to work with Off Grid Energy to find sustainable ways to continue using this valuable battery even after years of investing in our electric vehicles.”
Like many electric models on the market, the batteries in BMWs and mini-vehicles are guaranteed for eight years or 100,000 miles.
After that, according to the car manufacturer, the battery can still last up to 80% of its original capacity.
However, he admits it is “inevitable” that electric cars will no longer function optimally for cars as we get older.
According to estimates by the Canadian battery retired company Geotab, the average capacity loss for electric cars and plug-in hybrids after six years is around 12%, essentially reducing capacity by 2% per year.
BMW says that while its car battery performance is reduced – enough to pull the device out of the vehicle – it can still serve a secondary purpose as a portable power source as part of its sustainability and resource efficiency strategy.
Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Management Board of the BMW Group, said: “The use of resources will determine the future of our society – and of the BMW Group. Our goal as a premium car manufacturer is to show the way to sustainability. That’s why we are responsible in the here and now. “”
Earlier this year, the University of Warwick announced that it had created a “fast rating” system for a second-life battery to see if it could be used for research after vehicles equipped with Nissan Leaf EV power supplies were discontinued. .
When the battery life is less than 70 percent, the report says they can be reused for less demanding second-life applications such as household and industrial storage.
The university says, “Classified second-life batteries provide reliable and convenient energy storage options for a wide range of customers: from roaming electrical products – power supplies for customers on the move, to home storage products – for customers with solar panels that store the energy produced. .
“More importantly, packaging can be used for storage, increasing the number of regularly renewable energy sources on the network without compromising supply security.”
Professor David Greenwood of WMG, University of Warwick added, “Car batteries offer some great environmental benefits, but they are also resource intensive.
“Unlocking the second battery life increases the environmental and economic value we extract from this resource before it has to be recycled.”