What will happen to the batteries once the Volt has completed its useful life?
Pamela Fletcher, General Motors Global Chief Engineer for Volt and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Powertrains, says that this the most-asked question about the Chevrolet Volt product.
“A Volt customer is focused on the lifecycle of the battery,” says Pablo Valencia, GM senior manager for Battery Lifecycle Management, during a teleconference, “And we have a positive story to tell when it concerns secondary use.”
After 10 years of vehicle life, there will still be 70 percent of battery power left; this means that the batteries themselves are still usable in some way, even though they no longer meet automotive-grade standards.
GM has partnered with ABB Group to jointly research and develop ways to reuse Volt battery systems as a storage method for utility companies.
The system could store electricity from the grid that can be used during peak demand or power outages, which would ultimately save the utility and the customer money.
“We’re not just talking about it,” Valencia says, “We’re moving beyond the talk and moving into hardware.”
A prototype of this was demonstrated at the Plug-In 2011 conference, but GM and ABB don’t anticipate full-scale production until about 2020 when the first generations of Volts are off the road.
Still, the companies are working to implement several test systems by the end of next year to collect data.
“Utility organizations demand the highest level of data before implementing anything on the grid. Validation will take place,” Valencia says. “First is the hardware stage and as we roll through that, we’ll have more announcements and discussion around this.”
In the meantime, GM and ABB are committed to work on sustainable and realistic solutions to electric vehicle battery reuse.