Solar Farms Could Give Aging EV Batteries a Second Life

Electric vehicles (“EVs”) represent the next frontier of vehicular travel. Powered by rechargeable lithium-ion battery packs, these vehicles produce zero emissions at the tailpipe, making them the ideal vehicle for a green economy. However, lithium-ion batteries lose their capacity over time, and by the time they hit 80% of their original range, they don’t have enough juice to avail the energy needed to propel an EV. As demand for and adoption of EVs increases, we will most likely see an influx of such used batteries.

According to a new study, these batteries still have plenty of life left in them, even though they can’t be used to run electric vehicles. Using slightly depleted lithium-ion batteries as back-up storage for grid-scale solar farms allows for a useful and relatively profitable second life, the researchers say. The study was carried out by six former and current MIT researchers: Tonio Buonassisi, professor of mechanical engineering and head of the Photovoltaics Research Laboratory; research scientist Ian Marius Peters; MBA student Vanessa Barreto; and postdocs Ian Matthews, Bolum Xu and Wei He.

The group examined a hypothetical grid-scale solar farm in California. After studying the economics of various scenarios, the researchers found that using a properly managed system of used EV batteries as back-up power storage could offer a modest profit on investment as long as the batteries didn’t cost more than 60% of their original price. These observations, noted Matthews, were based on implementation on small-scale operations; implementing the same approach on a grid-scale may pose some challenges.

There are several issues that would first have to be addressed on a technical level, he explained, citing two specific examples: screening used EV batteries to make sure they are viable and packing lithium-ion batteries from different EVs in the most effective way. Then there is the economic side to consider, he noted. How do we know there is enough juice left in the batteries to justify the cost of removing them from EVs, collecting and inspecting them, and finally installing them in a grid-scale solar farm?

The researchers found that if you charge and discharge these rechargeable lithium-ion batteries under a relatively gentle cycle without going above 65% or below 15%, they could achieve their maximum lifetimes and value. However, more studies are needed to determine just how long these batteries will last once they are repurposed for stationary power storage. Although the study assumed the batteries would be retired after reaching 70% of their original capacity, there is a possibility they could keep performing at even lower capacities.

Ultimately, Matthews observed, a lot of stakeholders, including EV manufacturers, lithium-ion battery manufacturers, solar-project developers, and power-electronic experts will have to come together to determine if using used EV batteries as a stationary power-storage solution would be feasible.

The EV industry is growing at a rapid pace, with sector players introducing new innovations at a fast rate. For example, ev Transportation Services Inc. has opted to specialize in making fully electric, light-duty vehicles that are ideal for various applications, such as for meter-reading crews.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to ev Transportation Services Inc. are available in the company’s newsroom at

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