GM and ABB demonstrate further use for EV batteries

General Motors (GM) and ABB are conducting research into reusing batteries from the GM Chevrolet Volt once they are no longer required in electric vehicles (EVs).

Research conducted by GM predicts that the secondary use of 33 Volt batteries will have enough storage capacity to power up to 50 homes for about four hours during a power outage.

The automotive company has been working with ABB to identify joint research and development projects that would reuse Chevrolet Volt battery systems, which will have up to 70 per cent of life remaining after their automotive use is exhausted.

On 19 July, GM and ABB demonstrated an energy storage system that combines GM’s EV battery technology with a grid-tied electric power inverter.

The two companies are building a prototype that could lead to Volt battery packs storing energy, including renewable wind and solar energy, and feeding it back to the grid.

According to a statement the system could store electricity from the grid during times of low usage to be utilised during periods of peak demand. The battery packs could also be used as back-up power sources during outages and brownouts.

Using Volt battery cells, the ABB and GM team is building a prototype system for 25kW/50kWh applications, about the same power consumption of five US homes or small retail and industrial facilities.

ABB has determined that its existing power quality filter (PQF) inverter can be used to charge and discharge the Volt battery pack to take advantage of the system and enable utilities to reduce the cost of peak load conditions. The system can also reduce utilities’ needs for power control, protection and additional monitoring equipment. The team will soon test the system for back-up power applications.

‘Our tests so far have shown the viability of the GM-ABB solution in the laboratory and they have provided valuable experience to overcome the technical challenges,’ said Pablo Rosenfeld, ABB’s programme manager for Distributed Energy Storage Medium Voltage Power Products. ‘We are making plans now for the next major step — testing a larger prototype on an actual electric distribution system.’