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Friday, June 11, 2010

Second Life for Electric Vehicle Batteries

The California Center for Sustainable Energy ( CCSE) will lead a joint research study of how the useful lifespan of electric vehicle batteries could be extended by repurposing them as household electric storage devices with a $992,000 grant from the University of California.

The grant was awarded by the Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research Center, a division of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis. Partnering with CCSE in the one-year study are San Diego Gas and Electric, AeroVironment Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV) of Monrovia, Calif., Flux Power of Vista, Calif., and the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at UC Berkeley.

Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), whether full-battery electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, hold enormous potential for reducing petroleum consumption and decreasing or even eliminating smog-forming and greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector, according to Mike Ferry, CCSE’s transportation program manager and principal investigator for the study. However, the high cost of advanced automotive lithium battery packs utilized by PEVs constitutes a major obstacle to the wide-scale adoption of these vehicles.

The new study will establish viable applications for PEV batteries beyond their use in vehicles and quantify the value of the batteries in these secondary applications.

“Even after the end of usable battery life in the vehicle, the batteries will retain 70 to 80 percent of their residual capacity and be highly valued for stationary energy usage and other smart grid applications,” Ferry said. “A viable secondary market for advanced automotive batteries could cut initial battery costs by spreading those costs over their entire useful lifetime.”

The study will evaluate three different lithium battery types at test sites that will allow SDG&E to remotely charge and discharge them in response to simulated and real grid conditions. The study will also determine if a specific battery chemistry or a particular battery management system is superior for overall lifetime battery value.

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