2BCycled joint research on recycling | ARN
At the end of the life of the vehicle, can the battery from a hybrid or electrical car still be used on the Dutch electricity grid, for example for the storage of renewably-generated energy? Via the 2BCycled project, ARN, DNV GL (formerly KEMA), the University of Applied Sciences of Arnhem & Nijmegen, the University of Technology in Eindhoven and grid operator Liander are jointly working to find an answer to this question. As part of the project, two Volkswagen Golfs, converted to use electrical drive systems, recently were expertly dismantled.
Early in the morning, the ARN research centre alongside the PST plant in Tiel is a hive of activity. Raised on the lift is an apparently bog-standard Volkswagen Golf variant. But this is no ordinary Volkswagen Golf; instead of a combustion engine, under its bonnet this vehicle is fitted with an electrical motor and instead of the petrol tank and in the luggage space, four battery packs. This six year-old converted Golf is one of the two vehicles from which the Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are due to be removed, today. Subsequently, one of the two cars will become part of the training programmes organised by ARN for the dismantling of electrical and hybrid cars. The second vehicle will be supplied to the University of Applied Sciences of Arnhem and Nijmegen – abbreviated to HAN – where it will be used for study purposes.
This dismantling project is being undertaken in the framework of 2BCycled, a joint project by ARN, DNV GL, HAN, TUE and grid operator Liander. It is a follow-up to the SafeBAT project undertaken in 2011 by ARN and DNV Kema. The aim of the project is to investigate whether batteries from hybrid or fully electrically-powered cars can be given a second life, at the end of the useful life of the vehicle. “Once the operating radius has fallen by 20-30%, batteries for this mobile application are disposed of. For other (stationary) applications, there may well be possibilities for using the batteries. Possible options include households where the battery can be used for storing renewably-generated energy”, suggested Jos Blom, Innovation and Strategy Consultant at Liander. “There are also possible applications in more rural areas without mains electricity, as backup for a diesel generator in combination with solar cells. For us as grid operator, it is important that we already start investigating such possibilities with a view to changes in customer demand.”
Safety and residual capacity
Investigating the residual capacity of the battery packs is a task for the energy experts at project partner DNV GL. The cars from which the batteries are to be removed have driven 25,000 and 90,000 km respectively, over a period of six years. “We know that batteries from a hybrid or electrical car have a longer life than you would expect. We will now be carrying out tests to see how much of the original capacity remains in the batteries. We will also be examining the safety aspect. All cells in the battery must respond well to charging and discharging, or they will be completely unsuitable for use in a residential environment”, explained Jurgen Timpert, Consultant New Energy Technologies at DNV GL.
For ARN, 2BCycled involves more aspects than merely investigating the possible second-life applications for used High Voltage batteries. Besides the technical viability of the application, it is also important to investigate the extent to which the reuse of these battery packs is legally possible. Since 2008, battery packs have been subject to the Batteries Management Decree, and in that document no reference is made to dismantling and reuse. “Following deregistration of the vehicle, a battery pack is officially designated as waste that must be recycled,” explained Hector Timmers, project manager for 2BCycled within ARN. “Apart from that, we will also have to investigate the manufacturers’ liability; how does that liability change when a product is used for another purpose than that for which it was initially manufactured. Nonetheless, the fact remains that it is a real waste to simply recycle Li-ion batteries if they could serve perfectly well in a different, less demanding application. This makes it extremely interesting to determine whether it is possible to extend or maybe even double the lifetime of these batteries.”
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