Jaguar I-Pace batteries are recycled as heavy duty external batteries

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At Jaguar Land Rover, prototype batteries from early engineering models of the I-Pace have been turned into a 125 kilowatt-hour power bank that could comfortably charge your road car or race car.

Electric vehicle batteries are, frankly, all a big compromise at the moment. Everything is based on the best that can be done right now, among all other constraints, and although prototype technologies are evolving at an incredible rate, the building blocks we use are far from being at their best. And recycling, in particular, is something we need to integrate better from the start of manufacturing.

In the meantime, we make electric cars. Until we have perfectly circular systems to recycle every element of automotive design, we’ll work on a few compromises as well. Batteries are one of them – at present there is no particularly efficient system for re-extracting the elements used in the manufacture of an electric vehicle battery without individually deconstructing the cells, a process that would cost more than just digging up more of whatever is used.

Automakers are now talking big about circular design, but that’s a future goal and they’re selling cars now. So what we do with all these EV batteries when they reach the end of their functional (or even just high performance) life in vehicles is something that cannot be carried over into the future.

One solution, explored by a group of automakers, is to remove the cells from the battery packaging and reuse them as new storage solutions. A Formula E car’s battery takes a lot more knocks over the course of a year than a road car’s; it gets more frequent charging and discharging from 100-0, higher power outputs, greater regenerative recovery, harder impacts and hotter temperatures. Likewise, a road car battery goes through a much more difficult process than a storage battery at all the same points. Storage batteries aren’t tossed around roundabouts, suddenly flooded with power from a braking event, cycled every two or three days at the most, or put through all the dodgy chargers from here to wherever you go .

So when a battery is unsustainably depleted for use in a car, it can then be put out to pasture as a very large power bank. That’s what this energy storage system is, basically an ultra-rugged mobile battery.

It charges from solar power, so what comes out of it is (given the reused batteries) about as clean as it gets, and Jaguar has proven its functionality with its Formula E racing team. cars were track tested in the UK and during the official pre-season in Valencia last year this external battery provided power for all the diagnostic and analysis equipment used by the team.

Not that Jaguar is the first electric vehicle manufacturer, or even the first in racing, to have done this. Audi has a few projects to recycle batteries for a second life, including one that takes E-Tron batteries and turns them into off-grid storage to use for market traders in India, through German-Indian company Nunam.

Extreme E, the electric off-road series, also uses new methods of energy storage. As well as its hydrogen fuel cell generators to charge cars, it has reused batteries from Swedish buses that power its inflatable tent mobile racing command center.

It’s not the perfect lifecycle solution for EV batteries, of course, and eventually those second-life batteries will need to be more fully recovered. But as a relatively easy way to reuse them, and with growing demand for storage to regulate energy supply, as the world shifts to renewable sources rather than on-demand generation from coal or gas, it’s a good step forward. the way of planning in circularity.

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