By now we are all aware that EVs are going to become commonplace in the not so distant future especially with manufacturers introducing new models and governments actively seeking to eradicate the combustion engine of old. But what does it mean for vehicle dismantling?
Focus for the auto vehicle dismantling industry is on how to recycle used batteries from EVs when charged but not retaining enough power to propel a vehicle. But these batteries may have an alternative purpose in storing electricity elsewhere.
If we are to believe that the government is to place a ban on the purchase of traditional engines by 2040, it is hard to foretell when lithium batteries will have a higher density in our yards as they start to reach the end of their lives.
Manufacturers are constantly claiming new figures to longevity in new battery designs as they entice customers to opt in to buying electric models. However, one factor that might need to be understood (as we try to predict when such batteries are to become the dominant power unit to dismantle and recycle and be an important source of income) is how the unit will be used and utilised in its day to day life.
One concept for the use of Electric vehicles in the future being touted is called ‘vehicle to grid’. The thinking behind ‘vehicle to grid’ is that utility owners will ask owners of electric vehicles to use their batteries as storage for the national grid of their respective country. The idea being that vehicle owners charge their batteries when the rates are cheap and during peak hours will pump the energy back into the system with the potential to make money at the same time.
By being able to store this energy, it could make energy produced by the sun and wind more efficient. At present, energy generated by these means is not utilised completely as there is a limited means to store it. Australia have implemented a system in an attempt to store the energy that the solar and wind turbines can generate by investing 90 million dollars on a huge amount of lithium batteries set up in the outback with the batteries being the same as used by Tesla for its vehicles. The thinking of the ‘vehicle to grid’ system where millions of car batteries could be utilised to store energy could be seen as a breakthrough of harnessing natural energy resources.
For the auto dismantler, if such a system was encouraged and used it could see batteries requiring to be replaced and recycled earlier than predicted as the batteries will be in more constant use and will, therefore, reach the end of its life much sooner. However, an issue could be persuading the vehicle owner to opt into the system.
Although theoretically reselling the energy back to the grid at peak times will act as an incentive and offset the balance of potentially reducing the time of having to purchase a new battery. Nissan is already attempting one such scheme in Japan allowing those who own EV’s to have the opportunity to use their vehicles to power up their own homes claiming a saving to their utility bill of around $40 per month. However, the take up was only 7,000 vehicles which are not a significant number when there are 81,500 Nissan Leafs already in the country.
Another issue will be educating EV owners about when to charge up their batteries when there is a surplus of power and then reinstalling it back into the grid at peak times when demand is high (which is usually during the evening and at night). This is compacted with the fact that the vehicle owner will have to trust the energy company not to drain their batteries to the point that they can’t complete their journeys the following day. This will involve power companies creating new computer and network systems so that charging stations are more widely available when vehicles may be close to the vehicle users workplace.
At present, ‘vehicle to grid’ may be at the stage where solutions have to be offered but if energy companies can see a way of storing and not wasting energy in the future it could be an option they wish to take up and encourage EV owners to utilise. Also if the vehicle owners can be incentivised financially plus encouraged to see their vehicle as having a wider ecological and social use, ‘vehicle to grid’ maybe something that could be implemented quite soon.
A question may be, will owners choose to keep their EV batteries (useless to power their vehicles) to harness energy for their own homes or generate income with their power supplier? Such schemes and thinking still does not make it obvious as to when an abundance of used batteries will be coming to dismantlers to recycle and adapt and utilise them into a revenue of income. Could it be that as more batteries become available to dismantlers and if ‘vehicle to grid’ does become an option, could it be prudent to create your own power bank of half-life batteries to generate energy and sell back to the national grid?
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