What is the second life of a battery?

The Recirculate team is launching a new series of explanatory content about the second life of batteries, the circular economy and the most promising technologies and projects focused on battery re-use, recycling and repurposing. This article explains what the second life of batteries is and why the Recirculate project is built to address challenges associated with this area.

EV batteries are a buzzword. Lithium-ion batteries became widely discussed when electric vehicles started to evolve as an alternative to combustion engine cars. EV batteries can keep the car running for up to 10-15 years with less damage to the environment. Up to 15 years in an EV – this is exactly what we can call “the first life”.  But what about the batteries’ second life? Or even third?

How many lives have batteries?

An interesting fact – when the batteries are no longer able to provide adequate range for electric vehicles – down to 75% useful capacity – they still have a lot to offer. Besides, used batteries are an option with less carbon footprint compared to the new batteries as well as minimized waste production.

We listed the common application areas of used batteries below:

  1. Stationary Energy Storage: Second-life batteries can be integrated into solar or wind power installations to store excess energy and release it when demand is higher, reducing the need for peak fossil energy sources.
  2. Emergency Power Solutions: Batteries can be used as emergency power sources in commercial buildings, data centers, or critical infrastructures like hospitals, ensuring a continuous supply of electricity during power failures.
  3. Grid Services: Second-life batteries can be used to provide reserve energy capacity, defer transmission and distribution investments, and take advantage of power-arbitrage opportunities by storing renewable power for use during periods of scarcity.

Second-life batteries application: examples

There are many successful examples of using batteries in second-life applications:

  • Skoda Auto introduced a smart energy storage system: a second life cycle for batteries from electric vehicles that effectively reduced their CO2 footprint. In partnership with the Czech technology company IBG Česko, the system was deployed at Skoda dealerships. The system allows electric vehicles to be charged quickly and flexibly, and dealers can also use the stored electricity for the lighting and air-conditioning in their showrooms and workshops.
  • In 2023, Jaguar Land Rover and Wykes Engineering announced that they would build a 2.5 MWh storage system with electric-vehicle batteries taken from Jaguar I-PACE cars. The large-scale system aims to store wind and solar in the United Kingdom.
  • Audi implemented the BattMAN (Battery Monitoring Analysis Necessity) ReLife analysis software that allows the company to characterize used EV batteries based on remaining capacity: if the battery still has enough capacity, the company allows it to be remanufactured, if the capacity condition is from fair to good – Audi might use it in a fast-charging station such as an Audi Charging Hub, while batteries that reached their end of life are sent to efficient recycling.

Second-life vs. Recycling

Recycling is another option for using batteries that can no longer be used in EVs. However, second-life applications have more economical benefits compared to recycling as they extend the battery life cycle.

Why is Recirculate focused on the second life of batteries?

Second Life has great potential, however, a few challenges slow down wider distribution. First of all, there is a lack of reliable data about the battery.Many organizations are focused on research projects that aim at investigating new recycling possibilities and finding the best ways to extract valuable minerals such as lithium, cobalt, manganese, and others from the battery. At the same time, maximizing the usage of batteries in second-life applications has tremendous potential. A study published in Energies discovered over 60 potential second-life stationary, semi-stationary and mobile applications with renewable firming purposes being the most promising considering economic, legal and technical aspects. Considering second-life batteries potential, Recirculate projects aims to address existing challenges, including lack of data, batteries’ SoX characterization, storage and transportation of used batteries, and create innovative tools for enabling prolonged battery life cycles, economic benefits for battery supply chain participants and minimized environmental impacts to enable circular economy.

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