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Bosch, BMW, Vattenfall resurrect EV batteries for ‘second life’ as large-scale energy st

Bosch, BMW and Swedish power company Vattenfall have begun the latest attempt to harness the potential of batteries used in electric vehicles (EVs) to provide stability to electrical grid infrastructure.

According to Bosch, a 2MW/2MWh large-scale energy storage system will be built using lithium-ion batteries from BMWs ActivE and i3 ranges of EVs. The onsite storage facility will be operated by Vattenfall for 10 years under the terms of the Second Life Batteries alliance, as the link-up between the three parties is known. Vattenfall and BMW have collaborated for some time on research and development for “Second Life Batteries”, bringing Bosch on board for this project to act as system integrator and manager.

Bosch said the system will be capable of delivering energy in a matter of seconds and the system will be capable of acting as a decentralised power plant, by aggregating output. Its main applications will be to smooth the integration of renewable energy and to balance grid stability. The Second Life Batteries alliance storage system, which is being built in Hamburg, is scheduled to go into use by the end of this year.

PV Tech Storage reported another project involving BMW batteries used as agents of grid stability at the beginning of the year, which has a completely different take on how to use the technology. Under a pilot scheme in partnership with California utility company Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), capabilities of batteries in a number of EVs currently in active use will be aggregated to provide demand response.

Belectric and Bosch also both have recent form in the grid-stability business. Belectric completed the first large-scale battery project which will participate in the operating primary reserve market in November. That project, in northern Germany, also involves Vattenfall. Bosch on the other hand has already built a large-scale storage plant from combining thousands of lithium-ion batteries, at a wind farm on an island and another at a housing complex, both also in Germany.

The latest project uses an unspecified number of BMW batteries, with Bosch only revealing that "more than 100" were used. Image: Bosch corporate blog.
Work appears to be picking up pace to make the expectations of industry commentators and experts on the versatility and durability of EV batteries into reality. The usage of lithium-ion batteries in profile as they are used in EVs works at shallower depths and less frequency cycles of charging than in stationary applications, offering the possibility of extending their life by switching from the former to the latter.

Also mentioned by Bosch in its announcement on the latest project were expectations that scale in electromobility could drive the energy storage sector and vice versa, echoed by the sentiments of many in either industry. In a post on its corporate blog, the company referenced targets set by the German federal government to put a million EVs on the roads by 2020 and six million by 2030.

In a November interview with PV Tech Storage, UK commentator Ray Noble talked up the possibilities of such schemes for this form of recycling of batteries, whether for large-scale grid applications or at residential level. A recent simulation-based study showed fleets of electric buses could help in mitigation against speed and voltage fluctuations in electricity networks.

Batteries from BMW's i3 and ActivE EVs will be used for the project. Image: wikimedia user: Abehn.

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