AUTOS:

GM looks to give EV batteries a life after cars

General Motors Co. and power electronics company ABB Group will work together to research how used electric car batteries can gain a second life on the nation's power grid, the companies said today.

As electric vehicles creep toward general market readiness, automakers and grid experts are looking for ways to make electrified transportation work seamlessly with power systems. Finding new markets for car batteries that are no longer fit for vehicles could trim the cost they add to auto manufacturing, while also providing energy storage options for utilities.

"The Volt's battery will have significant capacity to store electrical energy, even after its automotive life," said Micky Bly, GM's executive director of electrical systems, hybrids, electric vehicles and batteries, in announcing a research tie-up between the two companies that will focus on GM's all-electric car due out this year. "Our relationship with ABB will help develop solutions that optimize the full life cycle of the Volt battery."

GM said the Chevrolet Volt will have "a standard, eight-year/100,000-mile warranty on its advanced, lithium-ion battery," adding that the policy is "the automotive industry's longest, most comprehensive battery warranty for an electric vehicle, and is transferable at no cost to other vehicle owners."

Bazmi Husain, head of ABB's smart grid initiative, highlighted the environmental benefits that could come with reusing auto batteries for energy storage. "We are excited to explore the possibility of employing electric car batteries in a second use that could help build needed storage capacity and provide far-reaching economic and environmental benefits," Husain said.

Entrepreneurs, federal scientists and academic researchers are working to develop technologies that can cheaply and efficiently store electricity in large quantities, which many people say will be necessary to more fully integrate intermittent wind and solar power into the grid. Reuse could also help mitigate the environmental impacts of manufacturing batteries in large quantities, should electric vehicles become widely accepted.

The companies plan to research how used car batteries can be employed for renewable energy storage, management of peak demands on the power grid, a source of backup power for communities to draw on during outages, and time-of-use management for industrial customers, who often pay higher prices for electricity during high-demand times of day.