DoE to Conduct Li-Ion Afterlife Study With Used Chevy Volt Batteries

4 years ago by Inside EVs Staff 10

Chevrolet Volt Battery System

Chevrolet Volt Battery System

Five used Chevy Volt batteries found a news lease on life at the DoE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

If Resident Evil Can Have an Afterlife, Than Chevy Volt Batteries Can Too.

If Resident Evil Can Have an Afterlife, Than Chevy Volt Batteries Can Too.

That’s where the used, but not used up, Volt batteries will spend the next year as ORNL attempts to “determine the feasibility of a community energy storage system that would put electricity onto the grid.”

This is a team effort with researchers from ORNL, General Motors and ABB Group joining forces to conduct one of thye most extensive lithium-ion battery afterlife studies to date.  The team will compile data using a “first-of-its-kind test platform,” of which ORNL released no further information on.

Why research afterlife?  Well, as the DOE states:

“With about one million lithium-ion batteries per year coming available from various automakers for the secondary market beginning in 2020, we see vast potential to supplement power for homes and businesses.  Since these batteries could still have up to 80% of their capacity, they present a great opportunity for use in stationary storage devices before sending them to be recycled.”

The goal of this particular study is to determine how best to utilize the energy stored in the Volt battery packs.  The team hopes to show that used lithium-ion batteries could provide additional power during peak load times or act as emergency power sources during a power-outage event caused by a natural disaster.  It’s further believed that used li-ion batteries would make for reliable back-up power sources for commercial businesses.

The researchers believe that implementation of used li-ion batteries into the electrical grid could both  “reduce energy costs and increase grid stability and reliability.”

Lastly, Bill Wallace, director of GM battery systems engineering, adds this:

“This project with Oak Ridge will enable us to start obtaining data to see if Volt batteries can perform by providing energy cost savings through peak load and time-of-use energy management.  The ORNL platform is the culmination of three years of research that began with a scoping study to determine the market for energy storage on the grid. This test moves research from the development stage to testing, which will provide researchers with the ability to quantify the technical and cost performance of the system under various real-world conditions.”

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10 responses to "DoE to Conduct Li-Ion Afterlife Study With Used Chevy Volt Batteries"

  1. David Murray says:

    If they still have 80% of their capacity, I don’t understand why they would need to be replaced in the first place. Especially in a Chevy Volt, for that matter. So instead of getting 38 miles per charge it will get 30 miles per charge before reverting to gasoline. I don’t see why they think a battery will be replaced at that stage just from 20% less capacity.

    1. kdawg says:

      I guess it depends on the typical life of a car. If it’s 15 years, and the Volt’s batteries still have 80% life after 15 years, maybe that’s where they are coming from.

      Numbers may also come from cars that are in accidents and deemed “totaled”.

    2. Nix says:

      One of the things I’ve never been able to find out is what will actually happen when the Volt battery capacity starts dropping.

      We already know that GM artificially limits how much of the battery is used. It never charges to full, and never discharges completely, leaving about half the battery capacity in the middle.

      But does that mean that as the battery ages, the top and bottom limits will stay the same, and all the capacity loss is lost in the middle range? If so, a 20% drop in battery capacity would result in a 40% decrease in range.

      Or will the Volt keep the middle range the same, with zero reduction in range, and move the top and bottom charge/discharge limits?

      Or will all the limits keep moving proportionally?

      The Volt could maintain full range as if the car were new, even after 20%, or even 40% of the battery’s life has been consumed, just by allowing the battery to charge to more, and to discharge more.

      1. Kickincanada says:

        We do know this. The battery will slowly degrade with no noticeable impact on range due to the built in buffer.

      2. danwat1234 says:

        Great question.

      3. finecadmin says:

        The vehicle computer figures out charge/discharge level mainly from voltage, so lowering the 100% level automatically lowers 80% too. Of course, it’s more complicated than I can put in a sentence. Many large batteries have other, secondary algorithms in their model too, possibly including prior history.

        “Final” failure is due to both ageing of all individual cells, and a few bad cells in particular. A bad cell will effectively bring down the other, good ones in its serial string, reducing overall pack capacity. There’s a lot to be said for overhauling for those bad cells, and at least one automaker has designed their pack with this in mind.

  2. James says:

    Would love to have three used Volt batteries as a backup for my house.

  3. shawn Marshall says:

    the best use for used batteries is residential energy storage for solar systems. no studies needed – just put them up for sale and let the free market rule.

    1. finecadmin says:

      Except free markets bog down when faced with asymmetric information and fraud- buyers don’t know if you were a leadfoot, and are trying to bilk them with bad cells. No studies needed- except for the one last year that found this. Or rather, confirmed this, after Adam Smith predicted this market failure (among others). As has Simpleton, below.

  4. Simpleton says:

    Do we know whether charging efficiency will drop when the batteries degrade? I don’t know the level of “cell management” by the batteries but if I understand correctly, a failed/heavily degraded individual can act as a sinkhole for charging. If so, I understand we’ll see a dramatic drop in charging efficiency…