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System Being Tested to Move Old E-Car Battery Power to Grid

Chevrolet Volt and battery replica (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors)

A Chevrolet Volt and replica of the t-shaped battery pack ((Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors))

Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, General Motors, and ABB Group in Cary, North Carolina are testing an operational platform to harness the electricity in spent electric vehicle batteries for the power grid. The project is funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, although the amount of the funding was not disclosed.

The consortium is testing the feasibility of a community energy storage system to take electricity from five spent Chevrolet Volt batteries and put it on the power grid. The platform, says Oak Ridge, is the first of its kind, with tests and data collection expected to take about a year.

“Since these batteries could still have up to 80 percent of their capacity,” says Imre Gyuk, who manages the Energy Department’s Energy Storage Research Program, “they present a great opportunity for use in stationary storage devices before sending them to be recycled.” Oak Ridge Lab is a division of the Department of Energy.

Oak Ridge says the platform provides 25 kilowatts of power and 50 kilowatt-hours of energy that could potentially provide backup energy to homes and businesses. Collecting the power from many of these units in various locations could offer the same benefit as a centralized source, but distributed around the grid to provide power during an outage or to fill gaps from renewable sources such as solar or wind.

GM and ABB have already demonstrated that a Chevrolet Volt battery pack can collect electrical energy and feed it back to the grid as a source of  supplemental power. In addition, an energy storage system built by GM and ABB last year provided all of the electric power needed for several hours at a temporary structure.

This stage of the three-year initiative moves the project from development to operational testing under real-world conditions. “This project with Oak Ridge,” says Bill Wallace, director of GM battery systems engineering, “will enable us to start obtaining data to see if Volt batteries can perform by providing energy cost savings through peak load and time-of-use energy management.”

A study by financial consultants Maxim Group, reported in Barrons, says 55,000 electric vehicles were sold in the U.S. in 2012, with some 127,000 vehicles expected to be sold this year.

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