Plug-In 2011: GM demonstrates Chevy Volt battery re-use applications

General Motors is confident enough in the longevity of the 16-kWh battery pack in the Chevy Volt that the company warranties it for eight years/100,000 miles. Actually, the automaker is so confident in the pack's capabilities that it is already looking into what can be done with the expensive hunk of energy storage after the car is ready to be recycled.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Plug-In 2011 Conference in Raleigh, NC, representatives from GM and its partner in this mission, ABB, said that there are many places where a Volt's battery components could end up at the end of the vehicle's life – ebikes were mentioned, for example – but the real focus is on grid storage and grid leveling.

GM expects the Volt pack to retain 70 percent of its 16 kWh energy capacity after 10 years. Sandeep Bala, ABB's lead engineer of the Volt battery project, explained the project this way. In each Volt pack, there are three separate modules. These can be removed and then reconfigured with modules from four other packs (so, 15 modules total) and given a different battery management system to create one grid energy storage box that can store and then supply power in the case of an outage. Right now, all the testing is on a very small scale (a battery or three in the lab hooked up the test machines) but the next step is to make small grid energy storage boxes and take them into the field for real-world testing. Also, GM and ABB will need to talk to utilities about what the business case is. True plug-in vehicle geeks will remember that ABB is also working with ECOtality on improving the plug-in infrastructure, so some connections are already in place.

Given how early along GM and ABB are in this process – they only announced the partnership in September 2010 – they do not yet know what the lowest level of performance a pack can come into the project with and still be a worthwhile candidate for a grid energy component. These kinds of details are what the partnership intends to find out. GM representatives did say that some low-performing batteries may simply be sent to recycling, but we imagine that reuse will be the more profitable avenue for "dead" Volts in the future.

[Source: General Motors]
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GM and ABB Demonstrate Battery Re-Use Applications


Companies test Chevrolet Volt battery for storage, back-up power and selling power back to the grid

First device to combine commercial electric vehicle battery and power inverter could save money for consumers and utilities

RALEIGH, N.C. – The expected growth in vehicle electrification poses a challenge: What will happen to the battery systems after they reach the end of their useful life in the vehicle?

Earlier this year, General Motors signed a definitive agreement with ABB Group to identify joint research and development projects that would reuse Chevrolet Volt battery systems, which will have up to 70 percent of life remaining after their automotive use is exhausted.

Recent research conducted by GM predicts that secondary use of 33 Volt batteries will have enough storage capacity to power up to 50 homes for about four hours during a power outage.

On Tuesday, GM and ABB demonstrated an energy storage system that combines a proven electric vehicle battery technology and a proven grid-tied electric power inverter. The two companies are building a prototype that could lead to Volt battery packs storing energy, including renewable wind and solar energy, and feeding it back to the grid.

The system could store electricity from the grid during times of low usage to be used during periods of peak demand, saving customers and utilities money. The battery packs could also be used as back-up power sources during outages and brownouts.

"GM's battery leadership position doesn't stop at the road – it extends throughout the life of the battery, including ways we can benefit society and the environment," said Micky Bly, GM executive director – Global Electrical Systems, Electrification and Infotainment. "As we grow our battery systems expertise, we need to assure we're optimizing the development of our battery systems with secondary use in mind from the start.

"Partnerships with organizations such as ABB provide real-world applications that prove what we're doing is real, not fiction," Bly said.

Using Volt battery cells, the ABB and GM team is building a prototype system for 25-kilowatt/50-kWh applications, about the same power consumption of five U.S. homes or small retail and industrial facilities.

ABB has determined its existing power quality filter (PQF) inverter can be used to charge and discharge the Volt battery pack to take full advantage of the system and enable utilities to reduce the cost of peak load conditions. The system can also reduce utilities' needs for power control, protection and additional monitoring equipment. The team will soon test the system for back-up power applications.

"Our tests so far have shown the viability of the GM-ABB solution in the laboratory and they have provided valuable experience to overcome the technical challenges," said Pablo Rosenfeld, ABB's program manager for Distributed Energy Storage Medium Voltage Power Products. "We are making plans now for the next major step – testing a larger prototype on an actual electric distribution system."

As part of sharpening its focus on reuse and recycling, GM has appointed Pablo Valencia to the new position of senior manager for Battery Lifecycle Management. Valencia and his team will focus on assuring battery systems used in future Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles provide environmental and societal benefits beyond their use in the vehicle. Single-source responsibility assures the design of future battery systems is compatible with reuse and recycling applications.

General Motors (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM), one of the world's largest automakers, traces its roots back to 1908. With its global headquarters in Detroit, GM employs 202,000 people in every major region of the world and does business in more than 120 countries. GM and its strategic partners produce cars and trucks in 30 countries, and sell and service these vehicles through the following brands: Baojun, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Daewoo, Holden, Isuzu, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall, and Wuling. GM's largest national market is China, followed by the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and Italy. GM's OnStar subsidiary is the industry leader in vehicle safety, security and information services. More information on the new General Motors can be found at

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