DOE Lab Studies Uses for Expired Electric Vehicle Batteries

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A new government study will investigate secondary uses for used electric vehicle batteries, like the Nissan LEAF's lithium-ion battery. Photo: Nissan

With electric vehicles (EVs) like the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt set to be available to consumers later this year, what will happen to the cars’ batteries when they are no longer usable?

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced last week that it will partner with a team of industry and universities, led by the California Center for Sustainable Energy, to study second uses for EVs’ lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries.

Researchers think that old Li-ion batteries may be used to manage residential and commercial electric power and to stabilize the power grid. The batteries could also store energy generated by renewable sources such as wind and solar and be tied to the electric grid.

According to the NREL, this is the first comprehensive study into the feasibility of secondary uses for Li-ion batteries.

Reusing Li-ion batteries is not only good for the environment, but it may also have economic benefits. Researchers will investigate the economic feasibility of giving EV purchasers a credit for the remaining value of a used battery, which could drive down the initial cost of the car and make it affordable to more consumers.

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