SAN FRANCISCO--Usually, solutions, like water, find their way.
During our year-long Drive
for Innovation, most of our conversations bored in on
the Chevy Volt's battery
and, secondarily, what happens after the 10-year warranty? What's
the infrastructure for reclamation?
Turns out, there isn't one yet. Stopping at dealership in
Renton, Wash., we heard a story about a woman--a big Toyota Prius fan--who got some unwanted news when it came time to replace her car's battery. She had no problem paying the $5,000 replacement cost. But then she
asked what recycling process would the old battery undergo.
Recycling? What recycling, came the reply. These get shipped off
into the desert. She was mortified and outraged.
This week, General Motors and ABB took a step toward solving that
problem and calming those concerns.
At GM's "Electrification Experience" here, the two companies showed
off a prototype modular battery-reuse unit (pictured right) that repackages five of
the Volt's LiOn batteries to serve as neighborhood power storage.
Two hours' power
The prototype unit provided 25 kW of power and 50 kWh of energy to
power all the support lighting and audiovisual equipment in an
“off-grid” structure used for the event. GM and ABB said such a
prototype delivers enough juice to power 3-5 average American homes
for two hours. In the demonstrations here, 100 percent of the power
for the "remote power backup" came from Volt batteries through ABB’s
Energy Storage Inverter system.
"In many cases, when an EV battery has reached the end of its life
in an automotive application, only 30 percent or less of its life
has been used," said Pablo Valencia, GM senior manager of
battery lifecycle management. "This leaves a tremendous amount of life that can be
applied to other applications like powering a structure before the
battery is recycled.”
This is not ABB's first foray into battery-reuse. In January, the
company announced an arrangement with Nissan North America, 4R
Energy and Sumitomo Corp. of America to evaluate and test the
all-electric Nissan Leaf battery for residential and commercial
use as energy storage systems. ABB’s research center in
Raleigh, N.C., conducted the research and development, and ABB’s
Medium Voltage business unit in Lake Mary, Fla., is managing the
proof-of-concept testing, market research and product development.
The demonstration, perhaps not coincidentally, was publicized on the
same day that GM announced it will have a half-million
vehicles with electrification in five years. That's a
lot of batteries that will need some afterlife love.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.