Repurposing used electric vehicle batteries for renewable energy storage

Researchers at Cornell University have developed a method of reusing old electric vehicle batteries for renewable energy storage.

Cornell University researchers, partially funded by the US National Science Foundation, have published a study outlining a novel technique that repurposes old lithium-ion electric vehicle (EV) batteries and uses them for renewable energy storage.

In the study published in Science Advances, the team examined how battery chemistry, reuse, and recycling influence lithium-ion EV batteries’ energy output and environmental impact.

Recycling electric vehicle batteries

The researchers discovered that the carbon footprint of a lithium-ion EV battery can be decreased by up to 17% if it is reused before being recycled. Batteries with reduced energy storage capacity can be repurposed to store wind and solar energy.

This exciting new research is crucial to manufacturing lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles that are created for sustainability as well as performance.

“What to do with all these retired electric vehicle batteries is going to be a huge issue,” explained Fengqi You, one of the authors of the study.

The research team considered environmental and economic tradeoffs in how batteries are built, used, and recycled.

Towards a more sustainable future

“Lithium-ion batteries are designed today for performance and not for recycling or second life,” added You. Lithium-ion batteries usually last 12 years or less before losing the capacity to power a vehicle. “There’s very little discussion right now about the environmental dimensions of improving battery design for recycling or reuse.”

The demand for recycling facilities that can break down lithium-ion EV batteries and extract the raw materials inside currently outpaces supply. Due to the volume of used batteries that will need to be recycled in the coming years, that demand will only grow.

This move to optimise the design and capabilities of electric vehicle batteries and use them for renewable energy storage presents a novel opportunity to advance towards a more sustainable future.

US National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defence.”

With an annual budget of $8.5bn (FY 2021), the National Science Foundation is the funding source for around 25% of all federally supported basic research conducted by US colleges and universities.

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