Automakers are by and large not yet focused on that possibility. General Motors, Toyota, BMW, Nissan, and others have experimented with using retired batteries around their manufacturing or vehicle charging facilities but are still firmly in the demonstration phase. Figuring out second lives for batteries is “not a next step that takes a long period of development,” Ford chief operating officer Lisa Drake told reporters last month.
But entrepreneurs have plenty of ideas. Already, used car batteries have been tapped to power streetlights in a Japanese town, chill beer at convenience stores, and move elevators. Modules and cells from old batteries power household appliances and bicycles. A spokesperson for the automaker Stellantis says it plans to use retired EV batteries to power motorized wheelchairs.
But many experts say “spent” EV batteries would be best used to store energy, where research suggests they could support power grids for up to 12 years. They could reduce the power costs for offices or homes by supplying it during peak periods, when utilities charge the most for electricity. They could provide back-up power for places that really shouldn't lose it, such as hospitals, eldercare facilities, and grocery stores, and places that don’t want to, like soccer stadiums. They could supplement renewable energy sources like solar and wind, storing energy when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing for moments when they’re not.
By 2030, retired EV batteries could provide 200 gigawatt-hours of energy storage globally each year, according to analysis from the consulting firm McKinsey—roughly 50 times the annual output of the Hoover Dam. B2U wants to be a part of that.
Reusing old electric car batteries is a topic of much academic excitement, supported in the US by grants from agencies like the Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission. But to many in the industry, reuse still feels like a fantastical science experiment, one that might end up in the dustbin of fabulous ideas that didn’t quite work out.