Has Battery Recycling Arrived Too Quickly? What About Second Life Power Storage?


There’s a report out this morning from the Washington Put up with this scary title — “EV Battery Recycling Has Boomed Too Quickly.” Bloomberg can be carrying a model of this story. There aren’t sufficient used electrical automobile batteries to fulfill even 10% of the uncooked materials demand for electrical autos made within the US, the Washington Put up says.

In the meantime, the US already has extra battery recycling capability than it has batteries accessible to recycle, with extra private and non-private battery recycling amenities deliberate or below building. The Put up summarizes its report with this pithy assertion: “Many of those investments are destined to fail. These few that succeed will achieve this solely by diversifying away from recycling, not less than quickly.”

Whoa! Decelerate a minute. The US Division of Power simply accredited a $2 billion greenback mortgage for Redwood Supplies, the battery recycling firm based by former Tesla CTO JB Straubel. Has DOE been hoodwinked? Did they not do their due diligence? How might they not know what the Washington Put up and Bloomberg know?

Battery Recycling By The Numbers

It seems the Washington Put up story is predicated on data equipped by Round Power Storage, a UK consulting group that claims on its residence web page it’s “the main supply of impartial details about the lithium-on battery end-of-life market. We acquire and analyze information on volumes, costs, technolgy and gamers within the quickly rising international reuse and recycling trade.”

Yup, you learn that proper. The corporate has two evident typos in its enterprise description, and but it claims to know extra about this subject than Straubel or the businesses which have chosen Redwood Supplies to be their battery recycling accomplice, firms like Ford, Rivian, Volkswagen, and Volvo.

Mercedes reveals battery recycling plans for the US & China, picture courtesy of Mercedes

Presently, faulty batteries that go immediately from manufacturing to the scrap heap account for about three-quarters of batteries recycled in US and international battery crops, CES says. That proportion will decline as battery manufacturing expertise improves, leaving much less scrap accessible for recycling. Don’t count on a provide of EV traction batteries to grow to be accessible till someday within the subsequent decade, both.

These batteries final a very long time — as much as 500,000 miles based on Elon Musk — and when they’re now not appropriate for his or her unique function, they are going to be used for grid-scale power storage or bought to used EV homeowners who want to switch their batteries however don’t need to pay for a brand new one and are keen to just accept shorter vary and decrease efficiency so as to save a buck.

For all these causes, the Washington Put up (which final 12 months printed a scary story about EV drivers freezing to dying on highways throughout winter storms) concludes its piece with this perception. “Investments in battery recycling expertise and capability aren’t a whole waste. In time, they may contribute to a extra sustainable and environment friendly US EV battery provide chain. However attaining that purpose would require greater than factories and press releases. It can require batteries — and recyclers want to start out planning how they’ll get them.”

Gee, I’m wondering if JB Straubel ever considered the place the provision of batteries for his factories would possibly come from? Most likely not. He’s not very vibrant and definitely not as vibrant because the analysis employees at Round Power Storage. Isn’t it attention-grabbing how some individuals scream about how used EV batteries will pile up in landfills and pollute our aquifers whereas others proclaim with equal ferocity that battery recycling is occurring too quickly? Are both of them proper? Maybe the reply is that neither has an correct deal with on the battery recycling future.

Second Life Battery Storage In California

One factor is correct concerning the Washington Put up story — EV traction batteries which can be now not appropriate for powering an electrical automobile nonetheless can have loads of power storage capability, which could be put to good use as grid-scale storage to assist take up some renewable power when it’s plentiful and ship electrical energy again to the grid when wanted. Ars Technica has a report out this week about B2U Storage Options that has simply activated a 25 MWh battery storage facility in California that makes use of second life EV batteries solely.

Freeman Corridor, the CEO of B2U, instructed Ars Technica the expansion of EV gross sales has began to supply a gentle provide of top of the range batteries which can be appropriate for grid storage responsibility. “We’re within the early days of the end-of-life EV batteries being accessible however there was a gentle stream of these batteries turning into accessible.”

By working with battery OEMs, B2U is having access to quite a lot of batteries that by no means spent a lot time in automobiles. “They do have some powertrain guarantee dynamics the place they’re changing batteries that didn’t meet sure promise specs, and there have been some pack substitute applications for a number of the early autos just like the Leaf,” Corridor stated. “There are R&D batteries which can be on the market, they’re going to make use of for R&D after which turning into accessible. There are different type of trade rising pains the place you get some batteries which can be produced that don’t fairly meet specs for automotive use that may nonetheless be used for stationary storage. These batteries work very properly. They’re engineered for very demanding use instances, and the use case in stationary storage is way much less demanding.”

To avoid wasting on prices, B2U makes use of full battery packs moderately than eradicating the cells and putting in them in a brand new housing. To take action, it has needed to construct a translation layer that sits between the software program that manages the storage facility and the battery administration system on the battery. That layer controls charging and discharging and helps monitor the well being of particular person batteries.

The corporate may be very cautious about how its software program responds to any points. “We’re setting ‘guard rails,’ if you’ll, which can be pretty conservative,” Corridor stated. “These are set far inside even the type of nameplate specs that the OEMs present. If something was to ever get to our guard rails, we simply shut down the batteries mechanically.” The interpretation layer additionally ensures that the overall instructions issued by the facility-control software program get translated into the particular instructions wanted by batteries from totally different producers. The California facility is utilizing batteries constructed for Honda and Nissan autos, and B2U says it has examined its software program on batteries made for GM and Tesla as properly.

Understanding how a battery’s capability has declined is crucial for the ability’s operation. Corridor stated that, throughout charging, the corporate’s software program has to acknowledge when a person pack has reached its capability and inform it to disconnect at that time to permit the stronger batteries to proceed charging. Conversely, the system should deal with batteries with differing quantities of capability because the system discharges, permitting people who have emptied their capability to drop out whilst the ability as a complete continues to discharge.

All of that needs to be dealt with seamlessly in order that the 1,300 particular person battery packs, all with distinct efficiency traits, appear like a single unit from the grid’s perspective. Proper now, the corporate is primarily centered on storing energy generated by photo voltaic panels (the battery is situated at a photo voltaic facility) and promoting it within the night because the solar is setting.

However even second life batteries attain some extent the place they’ll now not deal with grid storage responsibility. “We’re positively working with OEMs and with the recyclers to guarantee that that life-cycle administration exercise is dealt with correctly,” Corridor stated. “Reuse must be becoming hand in glove with the recycling in order that it’s all dealt with very successfully.”

The Takeaway

Managing the manufacturing and finish of helpful life procedures for EV batteries presents loads of challenges. Thankfully individuals like JB Straubel and Freeman Corridor are engaged on options which can be practical and market pushed. They don’t want a bunch of quantity crunchers who can’t spell operating round waving their arms within the air and warning about there not being sufficient batteries to make recycling economical till 12 years from now. The anti-EV and anti-renewable crazies don’t want any encouragement of their indefatigable efforts to bash something to do with EVs and renewables.

The financial system that prevails in a lot of the world is fantastically designed to reward those that guess proper and punish those that guess mistaken. Worry not, issues will prove simply superb and not less than we aren’t dumping billions of used batteries within the woods the best way we did with outdated tires for generations. We’ve got discovered a factor or two from the errors of the previous.


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