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The BATLAB in Uganda


Aceleron Deploys Its First BATLAB, A Solar-Powered Battery Servicing Container, In Uganda

As the world transitions to electric mobility and variable renewables such as wind and solar backed by energy storage systems, batteries are increasingly in demand. Dr Amrit Chandan, co-founder of Aceleron, predicts that the number of batteries that will need to be disposed of by 2040 would fill Wembley Stadium 23 times every single year, with ten times that number already in circulation today. The good news is that once batteries reach the end of their first life in an EV, they can start a whole new life in stationary storage applications. Anticipating a future with tonnes of battery installations, Aceleron therefore designed a battery pack which is built with sustainability in mind. Aceleron says it has designed the world’s most sustainable lithium battery packs in a full circular economy approach — their batteries are serviceable, upgradable, and recyclable.

Aceleron says it has designed and built a unique circular-economy battery technology that enables its batteries to be taken apart right down to a single cell, for repair, maintenance and upgrade. In comparison to traditional batteries, where, if one part fails, the entire product goes to waste, this new approach means that a single part can be swapped out for a working or updated replacement and the battery in its entirety can continue to fulfill its purpose. This serviceable battery model has the power to dramatically reduce battery waste, as well as ensure that the maintenance, servicing, and upgrade can be carried out locally, creating jobs and reducing travel emissions at the same time. This approach presents a key empowerment opportunity for locals to be trained to maintain and service battery packs wherever they are in the world, creating much needed employment opportunities as well as guaranteeing consumers a robust support service network that does not need the products to be shipped to their original manufacturer or agent in some country hundreds of miles away.

One of its battery products, called the Offgen, is a LiFePO4 battery that comes in 5.6 kWh, 8.4 kWh, and 11.2 kWh options. It’s actually an all-in-one solution with a single modular unit and compact energy storage system, including a hybrid inverter. Aceleron says the Offgen is the first energy storage system that has been engineered to support a sustainable model, using its future-proofed essential batteries. Unlike other products on the market, every individual part of the Offgen can be removed for repair, replacement, or upgrade, extending the life of the system.

Aceleron adds that while most systems on the market require additional wall-mounted components for their installation, the Offgen is an all-in-one system. It is housed in an electrical grade cabinet, which can be installed inside or outdoors. The Offgen contains: lithium-ion batteries, hybrid inverter, communications interface, and switchgear, making it compact and easy to install. Therefore, the Offgen provides the flexibility to store and use energy from onsite PV or low-tariff grid energy.

To help realise this more sustainably circular economy around battery storage, a joint venture project between Aceleron and its partners — including Venture Engineering, Total Group, and The Shell Foundation — has come up with the BATLAB. The BATLAB is a self-sustaining battery servicing container, powered entirely by solar PV.

The joint venture recently deployed its first BATLAB in a Bidibidi refugee settlement in Uganda that is run by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Local staff have been fully trained and supported to handle the batteries safely. It allows for products containing batteries that no longer work to be safely repurposed by trained local labour into battery packs that can be used by the local population to meet their energy needs — from charging a mobile phone to providing lighting or refrigeration. The BATLAB has all the components to build, repair, upgrade, and, in some cases, monitor every battery in one place throughout its entire lifecycle. Once the battery finally reaches the end of its useful life, it can be returned to the BATLAB for repurposing or recycling. This creates jobs, supports livelihoods, and provides opportunities to keep the materials used to make batteries in circulation for as long as possible.

Reida Kiden, who works in the BATLAB in Uganda, said: “I am very excited by the BATLAB’s arrival in the Bidibidi settlement and am grateful for the opportunity to work and learn from the team responsible for it. I know it will change lives for the refugees who are based in the camp here in Uganda.”

Chandan adds: “We can see this BATLAB blueprint project becoming a crucial piece of the wider battery puzzle — particularly in emerging markets, where easy access to hi-tech facilities and equipment is limited. This gives it the potential to play a key role in underpinning a wider net zero transition.”

Images from Aceleron

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since. At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.


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