Energy Storage Sumimoto used EV batteries for energy storage

Published on February 10th, 2014 | by Tina Casey


Sumimoto Hopes To Settle Used EV Batteries Energy Storage Question

February 10th, 2014 by  

When an EV battery ages and begins to lose range, it still has plenty of life left in it. Rather than sending it straight to the recycler, you could hook it up with a bunch of other used EV batteries in a stationary storage system. Sounds like a great idea, right? The question is whether such a system is commercially viable, and Sumimoto Corporation is about to find out.

Sumimoto has just completed an energy storage system made from used EV batteries, which it claims to be the first large-scale facility of its kind in the world. The system is expected to begin operating later this month.

Sumimoto used EV batteries for energy storage

Used EV Battery Energy Storage System courtesy of Sumimoto Corporation.

Used EV Batteries And Energy Storage

Well, don’t get too excited all at once. The facility is not exactly a commercial prospect, at least not yet. It is a prototype system selected by the Japan Ministry of the Environment as a model project under the category of “verification of the battery storage control to promote renewable energy.”

Sumimoto developed the facility in cooperation with Nissan, starting with the launch of a joint venture company called 4R Energy Corporation back in  2010.

Located on Yume-shima Island, Osaka, the 600 kw/400kwh system consists of 16 used EV batteries. It will charge up from the nearby Hikari-no-mori solar farm.

Over the next three years, the system will be studied for its ability to smooth out fluctuations in energy output from the solar farm, with an eye toward developing a larger, commercially viable system.

When Cars Eat Each Other…

Ford Motor Company already has a similar system under its belt. Back in company installed a 500 kw solar array as part of a green makeover for its Michigan Assembly Plant, and they hooked it up to a used EV battery storage system as well as new energy storage facilities.

Like the Sumimoto system, Ford’s used battery endeavor is a demo facility. If it proves successful, a lot of those new EVs hitting the road a few years from now could be manufactured with the help of power cannibalized from old EV batteries.

So, Is Used EV Battery Energy Storage Commercially Viable?

Maybe. Back in 2003, Sandia National Laboratory studied the issue and determined that there could be a future path to cost-effectiveness.

More recently, in 2011 Oak Ridge National Laboratory took a dim view of the matter overall, but concluded that certain applications for a used EV battery energy storage system could be profitable, one best-case scenario being the aggregation of multiple customers in a community energy storage venture:

A business case begins to emerge when applications with a low utilization factor, like voltage support
(only a few hours over the entire operating life of the system), are combined with applications that
increase the utilization factor of the system…

…Time of use energy management (peak shaving) is the most promising application for community energy storage (CES). Time of use energy management makes great sense where communities install energy storage systems controlled for peak shaving and indirect benefits to the distribution and transmission system such as upgrade deferral, and reserve supply capacity, may be realized.

The peak shaving angle could be a winner for business, if it could be integrated into an energy storage system that enables large scale utility customers to avoid high demand charges.

BMW, for one, isn’t letting Sumimoto  rest on its laurels. Last fall BMW Group announced a partnership with the company Vattenfall to develop secondary uses for EV batteries.

GM is also in on the action, with a used EV battery microgid backup system developed with the global company ABB.

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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+.

  • Ronald Brakels

    Used EV batteries will be used for stationary energy storage, as apart from scrapping them there isn’t much else that can be done with them. (They make lousy paperweights.) The only question is just how will they be used. Here in Australia I’m sure people living off grid would be willing to pay good money for a pre-loved battery pack. And then there’s people living on grid who might be paying 30 cents a kilowatt-hour or more for grid electricity but only getting 8 cents for the electricity they send into the grid from their rooftop solar. A used car battery pack, properly connected could be quite valuable to them. So valuable in fact that it might be worthwhile to ship used batteries from Japan to Australia, but we’ll have to see how things turn out. Anyway, it does mean that EV battery packs should have a decent resale value. (Although obviously if new batteries keep dropping in price that will put a limit on how much people are willing to pay for used ones.)

    • Jimbo

      No one going to buy used EV battery pack, double dumbass on you.

  • Altair IV

    NIce. Finally something in my own backyard, even if it is rather small. Only 16 cars’ worth of batteries? You’d think they could do better than that. 😉

    The company name is Sumitomo, not Sumimoto, by the way. Here’s an English press release I just located for the Hikari-No-Mori project.

    And here’s the Osaka City website’s profile page on Yumeshima (“Dream Island”). It’s one of the many artificial islands lining the Osaka Bay, and these are still relatively undeveloped compared to the mainland, so I can certainly understand why they’d set up there.

  • JamesWimberley

    This will work. Battery replacements for EVS will only be carried by car dealers. Car companies don’t have a problem in identifying and recovering EV batteries, even if the commercial model is sale rather than lease. The car companies are big enough to build recycling businesses.

  • Ross

    Good luck to them.

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