Plug-In 2011: GM demonstrates Chevy Volt battery re-use applications: "
General Motors is confident enough in the longevity of the 16-kWh battery pack in the Chevy Volt that the company warranties it for eight years/100,000 miles. Actually, the automaker is so confident in the pack's capabilities that it is already looking into what can be done with the expensive hunk of energy storage after the car is ready to be recycled.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Plug-In 2011 Conference in Raleigh, NC, representatives from GM and its partner in this mission, ABB, said that there are many places where a Volt's battery components could end up at the end of the vehicle's life - ebikes were mentioned, for example - but the real focus is on grid storage and grid leveling.
GM expects the Volt pack to retain 70 percent of its 16 kWh energy capacity after 10 years. Sandeep Bala, ABB's lead engineer of the Volt battery project, explained the project this way. In each Volt pack, there are three separate modules. These can be removed and then reconfigured with modules from four other packs (so, 15 modules total) and given a different battery management system to create one grid energy storage box that can store and then supply power in the case of an outage. Right now, all the testing is on a very small scale (a battery or three in the lab hooked up the test machines) but the next step is to make small grid energy storage boxes and take them into the field for real-world testing. Also, GM and ABB will need to talk to utilities about what the business case is. True plug-in vehicle geeks will remember that ABB is also working with ECOtality on improving the plug-in infrastructure, so some connections are already in place.
Given how early along GM and ABB are in this process - they only announced the partnership in September 2010 - they do not yet know what the lowest level of performance a pack can come into the project with and still be a worthwhile candidate for a grid energy component. These kinds of details are what the partnership intends to find out. GM representatives did say that some low-performing batteries may simply be sent to recycling, but we imagine that reuse will be the more profitable avenue for 'dead' Volts in the future.
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