In the face of the large-scale growth of electric vehicles, Brussels wants to create a suitable framework for the innovation and reuse of batteries in order to give them a second life.
On March 12, 2018, the European Commission, along with the French and Dutch authorities, as well as many European manufacturers, including Bouygues, Nissan, Renault and Lomboxnet, signed an “innovation agreement”. The innovation deal looks to facilitate the recycling and reuse of electric vehicle batteries.
The agreement provides for the analysis of European laws in order to identify and remove legislative obstacles to the reuse of batteries and their components. Objective: to encourage the development of the circular economy of the electric vehicle.
To summarise, this circular economy consists of increasing the life of the electric vehicle battery by encouraging its repair, giving it various uses during its automobile life thanks to smart-charging as well as using it afterwards to store green electricity, or recycling each of its components in a short-loop, that is, within the same sector of industry.
The advantages are as ecological as they are economical. The circular economy of the electric vehicle battery reduces the use of raw materials and offers a sustainable supply to the chain.
At the moment, almost all electric vehicles in circulation are equipped with a lithium-ion battery, with a usage time of 8 to 10 hours. Recycling these batteries is the responsibility of the manufacturers, through a specific collection channel, which grows along with the electric market. It guarantees that potentially dangerous or harmful components are dealt with.
Certain materials — copper, aluminium, cobalt, nickel, manganese and lithium — can be reused in the metal industry to create alloys or steel or even in the chemical field to make glass or batteries. That is why car manufacturers are increasing their partnerships with battery makers and members of the recycling industry.
The agreement signed by the European Commission encourages the lengthening of the life of batteries before being recycled. Even when they no longer have the power necessary to run a vehicle, batteries that are older than ten years are not useless and can be used to store large amounts of electricity.
Linked to renewable energy producers – solar panels, wind turbines – they can store electricity and resend it to the network when it is needed, in peak consumption periods or to help manage overuse of the grid. Reconditioned batteries will be used on “smart grids”, or in other words, intelligent electricity networks.
The aim of these networks is to ensure a balance between electricity supply and demand, and to develop a reliable, durable and competitive supply to the consumer. With this in mind, the electric vehicle itself can play a real part in energy transition and the development of renewable energy.
For example, with partners such as Powervault, Renault is developing small and large scale storage solutions from second hand electric vehicle batteries. For its part, Germany has access to almost 20,000 used batteries for photovoltaic systems.
In the Netherlands, an entire stadium has replaced its power generators with used batteries. The technology in the process of development will soon allow used batteries to store energy on a low power connection and to reproduce it at high power to recharge an electric vehicle.