Used electric vehicle batteries can be repurposed for a second or even third life to help solve disposal issues and improve efficiency.
The disposal of EV batteries at the end of the car’s life cycle will soon become a pressing environmental concern as electric vehicles gain traction around the world. EV batteries, the majority of which are lithium-ion, contain hazardous materials and have a history of exploding.
Reuse is a viable option for dealing with the problem of battery disposal. Audi is now experimenting with the second-life use case of electric car batteries to power simpler and short-range vehicles such as electric rickshaws, in collaboration with German-Indian start-up Nunam.
- 3 Audi-powered e-rickshaws will be brought to India as part of the pilot project
- To be made available to non-profit organisations and women in particular
- Project also takes into account sustainable charging via solar power
E-Tron Batteries have a Second Life
Nunam, which is based in Berlin and Bengaluru and is supported by the Audi Environmental Foundation, will bring three electric rickshaw prototypes to India as part of the pilot project early next year.
Nunam and Audi collaborated on these prototypes, which will be powered by used batteries from the Audi e-tron test fleet. The goal is to investigate whether such high-voltage battery modules from electric vehicles can be used as second-life power storage systems.
“Car batteries are made to last the entire life of the vehicle. But they retain a lot of their power even after being used in a vehicle,” says Nunam co-founder Prodip Chatterjee. “They are extremely promising for vehicles with lower range and power requirements, as well as lower overall weight.” We’re trying to figure out how much power the batteries can still deliver in this demanding use case in this way.”
Non-profit organizations and women in particular will benefit from the three prototypes that will be brought to India for commercial use.
Charging in a Sustainable Manner
In India, electric rickshaws are typically powered by lead-acid batteries, which have a short service life and are frequently not properly disposed of. Furthermore, these batteries are primarily charged with fossil-fuel-based energy, lowering their environmental credentials.
Nunam, on the other hand, will have a long-term charging system in place for its electric rickshaws. The company plans to install solar panels on the rooftops of local partners to create a solar charging system. The e-tron batteries can be charged during the day and used to power the electric rickshaws throughout the day, acting as a buffer storage unit. Internally, the charging station will be developed as well.
Nunam’s data from this pilot project will be made available on the open-source Circular Battery platform in order to encourage other similar projects.
Nunam will also continue to investigate third-life use cases for stationary applications such as LED lighting once the batteries are no longer suitable for use in electric rickshaws. “Before recycling, we want to get the most out of each battery,” says Chatterjee.
The practice of repurposing electric vehicle batteries in secondary applications is not new. Nissan, for example, has been using Leaf EV batteries to power automated guided vehicles that deliver parts to factory workers.
In India, in particular, there is a wide range of such applications. For one thing, electric three-wheelers are widely used throughout the country, providing a ready market for such second-life applications. Additionally, such batteries can be used to power home inverters, which is especially useful in areas where power outages are common. This not only extends the life of the batteries, but it also ensures that resources are used more efficiently.