The saying “to kill two birds with one stone” was thought up for situations just like this: by using old car batteries in the battery storage unit at the Lippe Plant, we are not only making the very most of their potential – we are also helping to support the country’s switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The perfect way to balance out sudden dips in the national grid.
Conserving natural resources
First reused, then recycled – what happens to the batteries at the Lippe Plant.
Helping the energy switch
Why renewable energy needs the support of battery parks.
The battery park at the Lippe Plant is one of the world’s largest second-use storage units for car batteries. And it is also the smartest solution for used battery systems from electric cars. A total of 1,000 batteries – all from smart fortwo electric drive models – have been incorporated into a huge storage unit with an overall capacity of 12 megawatts. The battery park is directly connected to the national grid and can store or release energy as it is required. This means that it is perfect for levelling out any dips in energy supply – especially as it is a fully automated system that can respond within a fraction of a second. At any time of the day or night. This not ensures there is a reliable supply of electricity, it also offers financial advantages as using such battery storage units minimises the costs of extending the grid.
Packed tightly together to store 12 megawatts: 1,000 old batteries from electric driven cars
As units like as this involve such large amounts of energy, safety is, of course, a very important factor. The battery park is setting new standards here as well and absolutely nothing has been left to chance. The fire alarm system guarantees that any smoke or heat generation is detected immediately and switches the whole system – fully automatically – into safety mode. In fact, the whole of the unit is completely digitalised. Employees can permanently observe and monitor all operating parameters live.
Just because a battery can no longer be used in an electric driven car, it does not mean that it is no longer of use. On the contrary: they can continue to store valuable energy for up to ten years when installed in such second-use battery storage units. Each individual battery is an excellent example of efficiency and helps to conserve our planet’s natural resources. This impact is further increased if the battery ends up in the second-use battery storage unit at the Lippe Plant. Why? Because anything that finds its way into Europe’s largest industrial recycling centre gets us thinking – about what should happen to it after it reaches the end of its useful life. At the moment, therefore, we are developing processes to recycle the batteries as comprehensively as possible after they can no longer be used in the battery park so that we can recover as many materials as possible. This includes components such as copper, aluminium, graphite and plastics as well as – in particular – the rare metals, lithium and cobalt.
Using batteries in the second-use battery storage unit doubles their useful life
At peak periods, wind farms produce more energy than the grid can absorb. Temporary storage solutions need to be found such as the one at the Lippe Plant
Even if our politicians can’t agree on the speed or the exact schedule of the switch to renewable energy, there is no doubt that it will happen. Will? It is already well underway. Both wind and solar energy are becoming increasingly important in Germany. 80% of the country’s electricity should come from renewable sources by 2050. However, as we gradually turn our backs on fossil fuels, we find ourselves having to deal with an additional problem: while wind and solar power are greener than coal, gas and oil, they are less reliable, producing neither a constant nor uniform amount of energy. The result is fluctuations in the grid and concerns about energy supply. This is the main problem of renewable energy and the sooner a solution is found for this, the better. Projects such as the second-use battery storage unit at the Lippe Plant can help level out such fluctuations – making them both an important cornerstone and pioneer of the energy transition.
Ever since the problem of diesel came to the fore, it has become very clear that the future of motoring in Germany lies not with the internal combustion engine but with e-mobility. Electric cars – still a rarity on today’s roads – will become the rule rather than the exception. The first of Europe’s large automobile manufacturers has announced that it is switching over completely to electric cars. Either its next new car or – at the very latest – the one after that will be electric driven. That is as good as certain. Would you have thought this possible even just two years ago?
More e-mobility means fewer emissions – and new recycling challenges
Conditions are changing so quickly today and, of course, they create new challenges for the recycling sector. Old batteries from electric cars may be a recycling niche product at the moment but there will be millions of them in the not too distant future. All the more reason, therefore, to develop new solutions for reusing and recycling such products. A task that can best be solved as a collaboration – as is the case with all big challenges by the way – between producers and recyclers. This is the only way to find the most sustainable solution.
The best results are always achieved when experts from all relevant areas put their heads together to come up with a solution. The synergies at the Lippe Plant demonstrate this every single day. The battery park is an example of how we have extended this successful in-house formula to include external players. By doing so, all aspects of an electric car battery’s life cycle have been covered. The battery systems are manufactured and processed by ACCUmotive, a subsidiary of Daimler AG, which sells electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The Mobility House and GETEC are responsible for the installation and marketing of the stationary battery unit to the energy markets. In the future, REMONDIS will be in charge of recycling the batteries once they reach the end of their useful life and recovering the raw materials so they can be returned to production cycles.
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