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

Second life for batteries

„Second-Life“ bezeichnet die Wiederverwendung von Batterien, die nicht mehr genug Leistung für den Einsatz in einem E-Fahrzeug haben, aber immer noch genug Energie speichern können, um in anderen Anwendungen verwendet zu werden. Diese Batterien können beispielsweise in stationären Energiespeichersystemen und als Back-up-Stromversorgung eingesetzt werden.
Battery storage systems play a crucial role in the stability of the power 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. In addition, they can be used as pre-charge 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 the electric vehicle. In second-life use, discarded batteries can continue to serve for many years - before being professionally recycled.

Recycling of raw materials

The battery cells contain valuable raw materials such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and copper. These precious and rare raw materials can be recovered by various processes to be used for the production of new batteries or other products. 

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From landfill site to source of raw materials

Recycling involves breaking down batteries into their component parts, such as the cathodes and anodes, the electrolytes and the casing. Through recycling, the amount of waste can be reduced and valuable raw materials can be reused. Currently, 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 doubly sustainable

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

In addition, integrating second-life batteries into the energy grid can be a cost-effective way to stabilize the power grid. Since power generation from renewable sources such as wind and solar energy can fluctuate, stationary battery storage systems can help store excess energy and stabilize the power supply when needed - at night, for example.

Use of second-life batteries in practice

A challenge when using already used batteries in storage, are the different health conditions of the batteries. STABL has found a solution for this: The innovative technology can integrate batteries with different residual capacities. STABL employees first installed the technology 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 startup from DB Bahnbau Gruppe GmbH, Inno2grid and Dellcon the project was launched at the EUREF Campus, Berlin and has been open to the public since then.

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