Second life and/or recycling: what to do with old electric car batteries?

second-life car batteries

Second life for second-life batteries

“Second-life” refers to the reuse of batteries that no longer have enough power for use in an electric vehicle, but can still store enough energy to be used in other applications. These batteries can be used, for example, in stationary energy storage systems and as a back-up power supply. 

Battery storage systems play a crucial role in the stability of the electricity grid and are therefore at the heart of the energy transition. They enable the optimization of self-consumption, reduce peak loads and lower costs in the long term. They can also be used as pre-charging storage for electric cars to enable optimized fast charging. By using second-life batteries in storage systems, valuable resources can be saved, and costs reduced. 

With the increasing sales of electric vehicles, the question arises as to what happens to electric car batteries when they no longer provide enough power in electric vehicles. In second-life use, discarded batteries can continue to do their job for many years – before they are properly recycled. 

Recycling of raw materials

Battery cells contain valuable raw materials such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and copper. These precious and rare raw materials can be recovered using various processes in order to use them for manufacturing new batteries or other products. 

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From landfill to a source of raw materials

During recycling, the batteries are broken down into their components, such as the cathodes and anodes, the electrolytes and the housing. Recycling can reduce the amount of waste and valuable raw materials can be reused. At present, this recycling cycle is still not very economical, and the rate is too low. 

Speicher 2 Fotocredits STABL Energy

Conclusion: The continued use of vehicle batteries in storage systems is twice as sustainable

Economically and ecologically, it makes a lot of sense to give electric car batteries a second life in an energy storage system before they are recycled. By continuing to use them as energy storage in applications such as stationary battery storage systems for solar energy, the service life of the batteries can be extended by several more years. 

In addition, the integration of second-life batteries into the energy grid can be a cost-effective way to stabilize the power grid. As electricity generation from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy can be intermittent, stationary battery storage systems can help to store surplus energy and stabilize the energy supply when needed – for example at night. 

Use of second-life batteries in practice

One challenge when using batteries that have already been used in storage is the different health statuses of the batteries. STABL has found a solution for this: The innovative technology can integrate batteries with different residual capacities. STABL employees installed the technology for the first time in 2022. The storage system consists of 24 used battery modules from old KIA Soul EV batteries. Together with the project partners from encore, a corporate start-up from DB Bahnbau Gruppe GmbH, Inno2grid and Dellcon, the project was realized at the EUREF Campus in Berlin and has been on public display ever since. 

Learn more?

Feel free to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you and answering your questions.  

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