DETROIT, July 20, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — The expected growth in vehicle electrification poses a challenge: What will happen to the battery systems after they reach the end of their useful life in the vehicle?
Earlier this year, General Motors signed a definitive agreement with ABB Group to identify joint research and development projects that would reuse Chevrolet Volt battery systems, which will have up to 70 percent of life remaining after their automotive use is exhausted.
Recent research conducted by GM predicts that secondary use of 33 Volt batteries will have enough storage capacity to power up to 50 homes for about four hours during a power outage.
On Tuesday, GM and ABB demonstrated an energy storage system that combines a proven electric vehicle battery technology and a proven grid-tied electric power inverter. The two companies are building a prototype that could lead to Volt battery packs storing energy, including renewable wind and solar energy, and feeding it back to the grid.
The system could store electricity from the grid during times of low usage to be used during periods of peak demand, saving customers and utilities money. The battery packs could also be used as back-up power sources during outages and brownouts.
“GM’s battery leadership position doesn’t stop at the road – it extends throughout the life of the battery, including ways we can benefit society and the environment,” said Micky Bly, GM executive director – Global Electrical Systems, Electrification and Infotainment. “As we grow our battery systems expertise, we need to assure we’re optimizing the development of our battery systems with secondary use in mind from the start.
“Partnerships with organizations such as ABB provide real-world applications that prove what we’re doing is real, not fiction,” Bly said.
Using Volt battery cells, the ABB and GM team is building a prototype system for 25-kilowatt/50-kWh applications, about the same power consumption of five U.S. homes or small retail and industrial facilities.
ABB has determined its existing power quality filter (PQF) inverter can be used to charge and discharge the Volt battery pack to take full advantage of the system and enable utilities to reduce the cost of peak load conditions. The system can also reduce utilities’ needs for power control, protection and additional monitoring equipment. The team will soon test the system for back-up power applications.
“Our tests so far have shown the viability of the GM-ABB solution in the laboratory and they have provided valuable experience to overcome the technical challenges,” said Pablo Rosenfeld, ABB’s program manager for Distributed Energy Storage Medium Voltage Power Products. “We are making plans now for the next major step – testing a larger prototype on an actual electric distribution system.”
As part of sharpening its focus on reuse and recycling, GM has appointed Pablo Valencia to the new position of senior manager for Battery Lifecycle Management. Valencia and his team will focus on assuring battery systems used in future Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles provide environmental and societal benefits beyond their use in the vehicle. Single-source responsibility assures the design of future battery systems is compatible with reuse and recycling applications.