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Used Nissan LEAF batteries given ‘second life’ thanks to WMG, University of Warwick

Used Nissan LEAF batteries given ‘second life’ thanks to WMG, University of Warwick

February 12, 2020
Press Release: University of Warwick

The capability to re-use high numbers of electric vehicle lithium-ion batteries for domestic and industrial use is becoming a reality for Nissan thanks to a new grading system developed by researchers at WMG, University of Warwick

Once EV batteries have fulfilled their life-span for automotive applications, they are usually recycled by the manufacturer. However, many automotive lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries have enough life left in them after the car is scrapped for ‘second-life’ uses, both domestically and industrially.

To do this, it is necessary to ‘grade’ the used batteries – identifying those suitable for use as spare parts, those suitable for ‘second life’, and those suitable for recycling of materials. This grading process is traditionally a long and expensive process.

Auto maker Nissan was keen to explore ways to make a much faster grading process for their used li-ion batteries from the Nissan LEAF – allowing re-use of old battery packs or modules instead of disposing or recycling them.

They were challenged to demonstrate 1MWh of energy storage by the end of 2019.

Part-funded by BEIS (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) the ‘UK Energy Storage Laboratory’ project was launched, where 50 Nissan LEAF batteries were used to develop the existing grading process led by Nissan, WMG at the University of Warwick, AMETEK and Element Energy.

WMG’s battery technology experts in the Energy Innovation Centre developed a safe, robust and fast methodology for used automotive lithium-ion batteries, at pack level. This methodology – which was initially developed in WMG – was successfully transferred to a pilot second-life facility, where the target of 1MWh of second-life energy storage was achieved.

In addition, the team at WMG developed ways of grading modules – the sub-components of battery packs in as little as three minutes – a process that previously took more than three hours.

Graded second-life battery packs can provide reliable and convenient energy storage options to a range of customers: from electric roaming products – providing electricity for customers on the move, to home storage products – enabling customers with solar panels to store their energy generated. More crucially, the packs can be used for storage, allowing increased intermittent renewable energy sources on the grid, without putting security of supply at risk.

“Automotive batteries deliver some great environmental benefits, but they consume a lot of resources in doing so,” commented Professor David Greenwood from WMG, University of Warwick. “Opening up a second life for batteries improves both the environmental and the economic value we draw from those resources before they need recycling. I’m delighted that by working with the partners in this project, we’ve been able to make it much easier to access those second life applications.”

The novel process is now being trialed for grading of battery modules at the second-life pilot facility, through these two processes, Nissan hopes to be able to re-use the vast majority of packs currently assembled in EVs in Europe. “The number of electric vehicle batteries reaching end-of-service is set to increase from thousands to tens of thousands per annum by 2025,” concluded Francisco Carranza, managing director from Nissan Energy. “These batteries typically retain significant capacity and power delivery capability, and their re-use in so-called ‘second-life’ applications has been proposed as a mean to extend the battery value chain and minimize waste by deferring recycling.”

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