Giving Electric Vehicle Batteries A Second Life

I recently attended Intersolar in Munich “the world’s leading exhibition for the solar industry and its partners”.  One technology causing a stir was ‘energy storage’.  Much attention was directed towards stationary batteries from domestic through to industrial scale but there was also plenty of interest in electric vehicles (EVs).

Image courtesy of www.hackaday.com

Image courtesy of www.hackaday.com

The large number of energy storage systems for residential applications reflects the demand for these systems in Europe, with Germany topping the charts. Tesla was exhibiting the Powerwall which was announced earlier this year but is not yet available.  Mercedes-Benz and BMW were present.  The former showing off its stylish stationary battery system and a very popular all electric car, the SLS AMG.

The main benefits of these residential systems are to maximise self consumption of electricity generated by solar PV systems, and to provide backup power.  On a larger scale, energy storage can help to balance the grid and facilitate more renewable energy generation.

Second life for EV batteries

Applying battery technology developed for cars to stationary energy storage is a great idea.  Some R&D costs are shared and there are further gains from economies of scale.  There is another significant benefit.  Batteries used in cars can be given a second life as a stationary battery.  Batteries in an EV typically have a useful life of 8-10 years.  After this they would normally be recycled.  While no longer fit for use in an EV these batteries can still be used in stationary applications (due to space and weight being less critical).  The result is lower cost batteries for both applications because manufacturing and recycling costs can be shared.  Nissan will be installing an energy storage system at one of their facilities this year that will use second life batteries from the Nissan Leaf.

Electric vehicles

In the UK this year 9,000 Ultra Low Emission Vehicles were registered in Q1.  That is a 366% rise over the same period in 2014.  If the trend continues in a few years there will be a large number of batteries available to be re-used in this way in the UK.  Let’s not forget China which has now overtaken the US as the largest EV market in the world.

Clean electricity generation used to power EVs. EV batteries given a second life as stationary storage.   Stationary storage used to facilitate more renewable energy generation.  It makes sense.

Electric Cars boosted by VW scandal?

The implications of the VW emissions scandal are far reaching: the health effects of NOx emissions, and the need to rectify the fault on millions of cars worldwide to name just two.  It appears that the vehicles affected will never perform as promised in both emissions and fuel economy – even when they have been modified. 

courtesy of volkswagen.co.uk

courtesy of volkswagen.co.uk

So what positives can we take from this?

Sales of ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs) including hybrids and all-electric vehicles will surely be boosted.  Sales were already showing strong growth in many countries including the UK (9,000 ULEVs were registered in Q1 this year) and their low emission credentials have been reinforced overnight as the goalposts have effectively been shifted.

Electric vehicles have many positives such as zero exhaust emissions, fewer moving parts, low running costs and good on the road performance.  In the UK at the moment they are exempt from road tax, the congestion charge and eligible for a £5,000 grant.

Electric vehicles are more expensive to buy than conventional cars but this could soon change.  Batteries are at the heart of an electric vehicle.  They are normally the highest cost component, but the cost is predicted to reduce by 50% within five years.   Already the Mitsubishi Outlander plug in hybrid is on the market for the same price as the diesel version (taking into consideration the £5,000 grant).

There are of course challenges, many of them related to charging.  Currently it takes a lot longer to charge an electric vehicle than it does to fill up with petrol.  Even the fastest charging stations will take around half an hour for a decent level of charge.  There are signs that this will improve.  Porsche recently unveiled the Mission E at the Frankfurt motor show which in fifteen minutes can be charged for a 250 mile journey.

The infrastructure required to deliver this rapid charging across the road network is extensive and satisfying the demand for charging stations as more electric vehicles use the road network will be a big challenge.

For electric vehicles to be sustainable the electricity used to charge them must be from renewable sources.  In the UK the proportion of renewable energy generation continues to increase despite the frequent challenges it faces.  

Electric vehicles will play a big part in the future of road transport.  The VW scandal might just have moved that future a bit closer!

Plug-In Car Sales and Leasing: Customer Charging Confusion Rules OK?

Electric car charging is still misunderstood and new customers are still left scratching their heads...

Battery Charger Not Included

The last time you bought a mobile phone, electric shaver, electric toothbrush, or any other remote battery powered device, it sure as heck came with a battery but did it come with a charger? Yes? Of course it did and you would be pretty miffed if it didn't.

Now what if I told you this ('no charger included' problem) is exactly what plug-in electric and hybrid car customers come across every time they buy or lease a new vehicle. 

In the last 6 months we have been researching and installing chargers for the UK domestic and commercial market and have come across this issue in 99% of our conversations with end customers.

A Car With 3 Wheels

Forward thinking, enthusiastic and pioneering customers having spent (or committed to spend) tens of thousands of their hard earned pounds on a new plug-in vehicle are then left to fend for themselves to get the key battery charging equipment installed.

Its akin to selling a car with 3 wheels and telling the customer to find someone else to buy the 4th one from!

Customers are left to 'Google' EV car charging installers near them or worse be thrust towards the larger car charging brands that are based miles from the client and can take many weeks or months to install a simple charging solution.

Charge Point Installation Sorted

Because the current car market is used to selling/leasing the high value car with maybe a few free car mats and an air freshener thrown in and leaving the customer to enjoy their new toy, the critical charging of electric or hybrid vehicles is being neglected.

Whilst car charging installation is a specialist trade, the packaging of a charge point installation ready for the delivery of the clients vehicle to their driveway is eminently achievable. Imagine how satisfied a client would be to have this sorted for them so they could fully enjoy their new plug-in vehicle? I know how I would feel.  

Sure, EV and PHEV car sales are only around 1% of total car sales but by 2020 this percentage is expected to exceed 10%. If Elon Musk succeeds with the Model 3 this percentage could will raise even higher and even sooner. The car manufacturing and sales industry over the next 10 years will see a massive change and the customer experience of the early adopters will be key to the success of car sales and leasing companies in the future.

If you would like to talk to us about how we can work with you to deliver excellent plug-in vehicle customer service we would love to hear from you.

EO Charging: A New Arrival On The EV Charging Scene With Something Special

EO Charging: A New Arrival On The EV Charging Scene With Something Special

With the electric and hybrid electric vehicle sector gathering momentum in the UK gaining more and more publicity, there are some new companies trying to improve on the old way of doing things and bringing know how and design experience to create an even better offering for the end customer.

This week I take a look at a Suffolk-based company run by a young and entrepreneurial chap that has experience in the sector and is shaking things up. 

Frustration

I first came across EO Charging back in January of this year as I was researching the opportunities in the electric vehicle (EV) charging market. I quickly had come across Rolec, Chargemaster, Pod Point and Siemens who seem to be dominating the manufacture of charge points in the current sector but I kept searching to see what else I could find.

A quick visit to their clean, clear and well presented website as well as a LinkedIn 'stalk' led me to Charlie Jardine the MD and founder. Having connected we had a long phone conversation about his company and what Mesh Energy did to get a feel for whether there was any compatibility between the companies.

Modular design

It soon became apparent that Charlie's previous charge point experiences had propelled him, driven by frustration, to design something better and he was keen to introduce us to the product.

After meeting the unique features and benefits of the EO product were clearly explained:

  • UK manufacture and local installer product support network
  • Robust and up rated components that are built to last
  • Sealed charger unit for quick fault replacement
  • Slimline and clean design with neutral colour choices

As an engineer the most striking design feature to me was the sealed modular design of the unit. Almost all other EV charge point units relying on being split, the back half fixed to an exterior wall, the wiring completed and the front affixed.

Changed In Seconds

Inherently this leads to dust and dirt ingress as well as the chances of rain/moisture entering the heart of the device if installed in less than ideal conditions.

In contrast the EO charger has a simple backplate design that can be wired at any time and a quick release mechanism that allows the whole unit to clip on and off in seconds. 

Decentralised Installer Network

The other clever aspect of the business model compared to the current market players was the focus on local installers. Many existing big EV manufacturers rely on their own qualified installers to install their products. For various reasons and likely design issues to their own installers need lots of quality training time for their EV charging products. As a result installations and product support can suffer considerably. Even our own limited experience has mirrored this client and car dealership frustration.

EO Charging however decided to let local installers lead and support their valued clients. With a simple EV charger design this becomes much easier and faulty units can be quickly replaced and sent back to Suffolk for investigation.

With production units rolling off the line and a growing installer network EO is one to watch and no doubt have exciting times ahead.

Visit EO's website for more details. www.eocharging.com