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Batteries Ford will demonstrate the use of old EV batteries for stored solar energy at Michigan factory

Published on March 12th, 2011 | by Tina Casey


When Cars Eat Each Other: Old EV Batteries Will Power Ford Factory

March 12th, 2011 by  

Ford will demonstrate the use of old EV batteries for stored solar energy at Michigan factoryFord’s Michigan Assembly Plant is about to become the scene of a major experiment in car cannibalization. A new 500-kilowatt solar installation has just gone online, and the project includes a 50-kilowatt-hour facility demonstrating the potential for used electric vehicle batteries in energy storage. If the system proves viable, it will provide the basis for expanding solar power and installing used EV battery storage systems at other Ford plants.

Solar Energy Storage

Like wind power, solar is an intermittent energy source. In order to guarantee a steady, reliable supply, some kind of storage system is required.  A nationally networked smart grid will also come into play, but storage is the name of the game. Large scale battery systems are one solution, along with a raft of other alternatives such as high tech flywheels and pumped hydropower.  Energy from Ford’s new solar installation will be stored in an array of new batteries along with the used EV battery demo.

Using Old EV Batteries to Store Energy

EV batteries have a lot of life in them after they are no longer suitable for use in a vehicle. Back in 2003, Sandia National Laboratory studied the feasibility of re-using old EV batteries(pdf) for stationary energy storage and concluded that there are no “insurmountable technical barriers to the implementation of a second use scheme,”  especially since there was already an established re-use market for forklift and laptop batteries, among others. The study’s authors also noted that a used battery solar energy storage system was up and running in Mexico.

The Rush is on for Re-Using EV Batteries

Duke Energy is another company experimenting with EV battery re-use, drawing data from a fleet of about 80 Think EV’s based in Indiana – a state that has become a powerful green jobs generator thanks to a statewide cooperative effort by business, government, nonprofits, and other stakeholders. That’s the kind of democratic, consensus-oriented planning that is needed to transition to a new energy future. Given the top-down trend in Michigan, it’s not clear that Ford’s plans for a solar-electric future in that state will continue to develop apace but hey, there’s always Indiana.

Image: Car battery by Andy Armstrong on flickr.com.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Linas

    What’s the point of using used batteries?

    If they won’t how a charge in an electric car why would they
    hold a charge in a new “50-kilowatt-hour facility”?

    There is a good reason these “used EV battery” are not in
    the electric cars because there useful life is at an end they are not reliable
    storage devices any more

    Why waste time effort and expense in trying to use them as a
    storage facility for solar power

    When they won’t hold a charge?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Batteries gradually loose their ability to hold a charge. As that happens the number of miles between charges drop. It’s believed that most people will want a new battery when capacity drops to about 80%.

      A battery with 80% capacity has a lot of life left in it. It would be very useful for grid storage and smoothing for a number of years. If car owners could sell their “80%” batteries to utility companies that would help pay for the new one.

      Eventually capacity would drop too low to be useful to the utility company and then the battery could go to the recycling plant to be turned into a new one.

      I suspect a number of EVs won’t get new batteries when they hit 80%. They’ll get sold to someone who has less range needs. A ten year old Leaf that has a 40, 50, 60 mile range might be a great car for short daily commutes to work or school. Cheap to drive. No funky engine problems.

  • We need more companies thinking this way and finding viable options that are eco-aware. Moms like me want to take care of our resources but at the same time are realistic for our stretched finances. Bravo to companies who are being innovative.

    By the way, love your post title- best title I’ve read all week.

    • Tina Casey

      Hey HudsonHero thanks for your comment – and the compliment. Part of the thinking going into EV battery re-use is that manufacturers and/or consumers can recover some energy-value from the battery after it is no longer useful in a vehicle, which would help to reduce their cost.

  • It is becoming to be a necessity to reuse the old stuff instead of making a new one.

  • This should be the way how to treat the old things from now on. It is certainly good idea. It is becoming to be a necessity to reuse the old stuff instead of making a new one. The consumption is no longer sustainable advantage of civilized countries. To mitigate the impact of human’s activities on the Nature is the way we should go further.

  • How silly, like that might actually power 1/10th of 1/10th of 1/10th of 1/10th of a percent of NOWHEREVILLE!

    • Tina Casey

      Fireofenergy, thank you for your comment, but I’m not sure what you mean.

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