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ORNL leads study focused on new uses for old electric vehicle batteries

English: 2011 Chevrolet Volt under the hood. R...

A 2011 Chevrolet Volt under the hood. Right side: the power inverter on top of the electric drive unit (electric motor) used for traction. Left side: the 1.4-liter gasoline-powered engine used as generator to provide power to the electric motor or to engage mechanically to assist propulsion when the battery is depleted. Taken at the 2011 Washington Auto Show. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once they've finished powering electric vehicles for hundreds of thousands of miles, it may not be the end of the road for automotive batteries, which researchers believe can provide continued benefits for consumers, automakers and the environment.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers are studying five used Chevrolet Volt batteries to determine the feasibility of a community energy storage system that would put electricity onto the grid. Over the next year, researchers from ORNL, General Motors and the ABB Group will conduct studies and compile data using a first-of-its-kind test platform.

"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," said Dr. Imre Gyuk, manager of the Energy Storage Research Program in DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability in a press release. "Since these batteries could still have up to 80 percent of their capacity, they present a great opportunity for use in stationary storage devices before sending them to be recycled."

Last year in San Francisco, a GM/ABB energy storage system provided 100 percent of the electricity needed to power a temporary structure for several hours. A similar application could one day power a group of homes or small commercial buildings during a power outage or help make up for gaps in solar, wind or other renewable power generation.

The ORNL platform provides 25 kilowatts of power and 50 kilowatt-hours of energy that could potentially provide cost-effective backup energy, said Michael Starke of ORNL's Energy and Transportation Science Division.
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