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Safety of Second-life Batteries in Battery Energy Storage Systems – Report published

A report, commissioned by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), entitled ‘Safety of Second-life Batteries in Battery Energy Storage System’, and prepared by P. A. Christensen (who spoke about this subject at the ATF Professional conference in 2022), W. Mrozik and M. S. Wise, School of Engineering, Newcastle University, was published this week at gov.uk.

 

Safety of Second-life Batteries in Battery Energy Storage Systems - Report published p
LiB fire

The report provides an overview of the market for second-life batteries. It reviews the hazards for lithium-ion batteries and the risks specific to second-life batteries, including batteries from electric vehicles, with a description of gateway testing and other mitigating measures. It also provides a detailed analysis of the relevant codes, standards and regulations, and considers best practice when using second-life batteries in battery energy storage systems (BESS). Input to create the report was gathered from representatives from over 30 organisations, including BESS and electric vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, industry associations, battery recyclers, research institutes, public and government bodies, product safety experts, and standards bodies.

Summary

Electrical energy storage will be a critical source of flexibility needed to transform and decarbonise the energy system. These systems allow for the storage of energy for times when it is needed and increase the flexibility of the grid, which is key for integrating variable renewable generation. From a consumer perspective, domestic lithium-ion battery energy storage systems (DLiBESS) are becoming an attractive option, particularly when installed alongside onsite generation such as solar photovoltaic (PV), enabling the consumer to maximise the use of this generation and to buy and sell electricity at times that are financially advantageous. This is particularly beneficial when used in conjunction with Demand Side Response (DSR).

Although few incidents of thermal runaway with DLiBESS are known in the public domain, such an event could present hazards such as fire, toxic gas release or explosion. The report addresses the use of second-life lithium-ion batteries in DLiBESS driven by the significant increase in the availability of second-life electric vehicle (EV) batteries resulting from the global drive to decarbonisation.

However, there is a concern that second-life LiBs may have a greater risk of failure if steps are not taken to adequately mitigate this risk. Therefore, the aim of this study is to improve the evidence base available to OPSS on the safety risks and hazards associated with the application of second-life lithium-ion batteries in domestic LiBESS and measures to mitigate these, including an assessment of best practice and standards.

In conclusion

Extensive discussions with stakeholders have revealed two opposing views on second-life batteries: firstly, that a safety framework can be put in place to allow the use of second-life LiBs in DLiBESS, so long as the full history of the batteries in their first life applications is known and/or they can be tested effectively. A second, more radical view shared by some respondents is simply that the safety of such cells can never be guaranteed, and hence that second-life LiBs should not be employed under any circumstances in DLiBESS.

Lastly, due to the fire and electrical hazards associated with LiBs, the availability of potentially untested second-life LiBs and the potential lack of knowledge (for example, with LiB ageing) and skills of consumers to mitigate the risk through testing and good system design, consideration should also be given to whether stricter requirements are needed for home-built (“DIY”) DLiBESS that use second-life batteries.

Professor Paul Christensen, Newcastle University, commented:

Safety of Second-life Batteries in Battery Energy Storage Systems - Report published p christensen
Paul Christensen

“Without a shadow of a doubt, the recycling industry is crucial to the success of the drive to decarbonisation through the electrification of transport. However, the very high energy densities of lithium-ion batteries and very large volumes of toxic and explosive gases released when they enter thermal runaway demand detailed training for their handling and a highly responsible industry.”

To read the full report, go to assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/safety-of-second-life-batteries-in-bess.pdf

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Owain Griffiths

Owain Griffiths

Head of Circular Economy at Volvo Cars

Owain joined Volvo Cars in June 2021 to lead Circular Economy in the Global Sustainability Team. The company has committed to being a circular business by 2040 and has financial, recycled content and CO2 based targets for 2025, all of which Owain is working across the company to make happen. Owain previously worked for circular economy consultancy Oakdene Hollins where he advised businesses on evidence led circular economy implementation. 

Turning into a circular business and the importance of vehicle reuse and recycling.

The presentation will cover the work Volvo Cars is doing to achieve 2025 but mainly focus on the transformational work towards 2040 and the business and value chain changes being considered. Attention will be paid to the way vehicles are being dealt with at the end of life and the complexities of closing material and component loops. Opportunities and challenges which Volvo Cars is facing will be presented including engagement with 3rd parties and increasing pressure from stakeholders.

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e2e Total Loss Vehicle Management [e2e] is the UK’s only salvage and automotive recycling network with nationwide, environmentally compliant sites delivering performance resilience and service reliability to the insurance and fleet markets.  The network’s online salvage auction www.salvagemarket.co.uk drives strong salvage resale values and faster sales.  e2e’s salvage clients have access to the network’s stocks of over 5 million quality graded, warranty assured reclaimed parts. 

The power of the network model means e2e has the ability to influence industry standards and is committed to continually raising the bar whilst redefining the role and perceived value of the salvage operator.  Network members adhere to robust service level agreements, against which they are audited, in order to ensure performance consistency and a market leading customer experience.  

The salvage and recycling operating environment is evolving rapidly, and e2e is anticipating, listening and responding to changing market needs.  Regulatory compliance, ESG, reclaimed parts, customer experience, EVs, new vehicle technologies, data and reputation risk are just some of many considerations linked to the procurement of salvage services.  e2e will drive further added value to clients and members through the adoption and application of emerging technologies, continuing to differentiate its proposition and position salvage services as a professional partnership. 

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