One query: Who owns the reused batteries, and who’s accountable if one thing goes mistaken? Automakers know they might be blamed if one in every of their previous batteries is concerned in a hearth. GM just lately recalled each Chevrolet Bolt as a result of flawed batteries made by the Korean firm LG Chem led to fires. “It’s legally a little bit of a grey space,” says Pesaran, the NREL engineer. “And with attorneys—they’ll argue something.”
There are technical points, too. Earlier than you may reuse an EV battery, you need to know the way a lot juice it retains and whether or not it’s worthy of a second life. “Evaluating the well being of batteries is fairly important to understanding whether or not it has worth,” says Andy Latham, an electrical car salvage marketing consultant at Salvage Wire.
That’s not so simple as it sounds. Battery makers and automakers often change the cell chemistry and structure of their batteries, making it exhausting to develop a typical course of. Furthermore, batteries popping out of service as we speak are possible broken from crashes, or have some manufacturing defect. Even discovering previous batteries to check could be a problem. Chris Mi, an engineering professor who research lithium-ion batteries at San Diego State College, talks to salvage yard operators and automakers. Different groups begin on Google.
ReJoule, a startup based mostly in southern Los Angeles County amid strip malls and rocking oil derricks, desires to streamline that course of. Its prototype is a light-weight, desktop computer-sized machine that may diagnose in lower than 5 minutes, and as little as 30 seconds, whether or not a battery is appropriate for a second life. At the moment, the method can take hours and requires machines that may be heavier than the battery packs they’re diagnosing. ReJoule plans a second machine, the dimensions of a dorm room fridge, to diagnose a battery pack earlier than it’s even taken out of a automotive. Its tech depends on electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, which makes use of an alternating present scanned over many frequencies to measure the well being of the supplies inside a battery cell. Finally, the corporate want to see its software program embedded in new batteries to allow them to be monitored by their nerve-racking lives on the highway. It will additionally like assist from rules, or not less than business requirements to make the job simpler.
For now, although, ReJoule’s engineers must get contained in the batteries. Battery packs are sealed with industrial glues and aren’t constructed to be disassembled. Years of exhausting service on bumpy roads can warp their screws and bolts. So it might take ReJoule’s engineers hours simply to pry one open. As soon as inside, tons can go mistaken. One graphic reminder: a change known as a contactor that’s firmly welded to a metallic software. It’s not imagined to be. The contactor fell throughout the software whereas an engineer was establishing a check, and “there have been, you understand, some fireworks,” says Steven Chung, ReJoule’s CEO, who based the corporate along with his sister Zora. ReJoule retains the factor round to remind everybody to stay to the protection guidelines.
One other looming query is whether or not previous EV batteries are a dependable option to retailer power for the grid. That’s why the previous Nissan Leaf batteries are out in that discipline in Lancaster. One concern is that these batteries—or sure sorts of batteries—will work for only a few years earlier than degrading quickly. Utilities received’t need batteries they must swap out usually. B2U president and cofounder Freeman Corridor says his firm desires to show the long-term worth to power specialists and buyers. If B2U can present that previous lithium-ion batteries can cost and discharge many occasions whereas sitting out within the sizzling solar and the robust wind for years and nonetheless do good work, “it modifications the whole lot” when it comes to the corporate’s skill to lift cash, Corridor says.