Waste Not
Japanese Firm Builds First Large-Scale Power Storage System From EV Batteries

Japanese multinational corporation Sumitomo has developed and installed the world's first large-scale power storage system that utilizes used electric-vehicle (EV) batteries. Built on Yume-shima Island, Osaka, the commercial scale storage system will begin operating later this month.

Over the next three years, the system will measure the smoothing effect of energy output fluctuation from the nearby Hikari-no-mori solar farm, and will aim to establish a large-scale power storage technology by safely and effectively utilizing the huge quantities of discarded used EV batteries which will become available in the future.

End-of-life uses, or disposal options, for EV batteries — which are highly toxic — is a major sustainability issue in the EV space. To address this, in 2010 Sumitomo created the joint venture company, "4R Energy Corporation," in collaboration with Nissan. The used EV batteries that will be recycled into this large-scale storage system have been recovered and have gone through thorough inspection and maintenance at 4R, to confirm safety and performance. The 600kW/400kW prototype system consists of sixteen used EV batteries.

Sumitomo says it will seek new business opportunities that can make use of the highly economical storage system, as well as work on developing new applications for used EV batteries. The company also aims to actively promote this approach, which can both contribute to expanding the use of EV and encourage the use of renewable energy.

Last year was a big year for EVs. The Tesla Model S received a five-star safety rating in every subcategory from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), making it part of the one percent of all vehicles tested by the federal government to achieve a perfect score. While NHTSA does not publish a star rating above 5, safety levels better than five stars are captured in the overall Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) provided to manufacturers, where the Model S achieved a new combined record of 5.4 stars.

Tesla also introduced a new system that allows battery packs in electric vehicles to be swapped in roughly 90 seconds. The battery pack swaps will cost between $60 and $80. Based on current gasoline prices, this is about the same a 15-gallon gas tank. The stations will each cost about $500,000 to build and will be placed alongside Tesla’s fast-charging stations. The free fast-charge stations can charge a battery in about 30 minutes.

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