New Life for Old Batteries

Electric Car Battery PackBy Leslie L. Stone, CAPP

Although the internal combustion engine is not yet on life support, the lockstep march toward zero emissions is certainly well underway. The supply of petroleum-based fuels is finite and no one is arguing against cleaner air. California is leading the way with an executive order that mandates that all new cars and passenger trucks sold in the state be zero emissions by 2035. It stands to reason that other progressive states, and ultimately an order at the federal level, are not too far behind. Major vehicle producers are announcing additions to their EV line-up, including a 1000HP Hummer by GMC.

With electric vehicles come batteries–lots and lots of batteries. Research and development have been able to extend the life of these batteries, but ultimately these storage devices will continue to have a limited useful life for the foreseeable future. How many batteries are we talking about? A recent article in Pocket predicts “12M tons of lithium-ion batteries are expected to retire between now and 2030.”

What can be done with this tsunami of batteries that are past their initial useful life? The most predictable answer is recycling. However, there is another school of thought proposing that a second life as storage cells may actually be the better answer for society and for the environment. It would be interesting to see some of these batteries resurrected to store solar energy in meters or charging stations at the curb, in lots, or in parking decks. From an initial life in mobility to a second life in parking, it is an innovative idea worth considering.

Leslie L. Stone, CAPP, is general manager with National Express Transit.