Electric vehicle (EV) batteries are designed to withstand high charge and discharge rates, as well as extreme operating conditions.
However, the current elephant in the room in the EV industry is what happens to the battery when it needs to be replaced, says Revov MD Lance Dickerson.
Revov supplies batteries for the renewable energy and uninterrupted power supply (UPS) market in sub-Saharan Africa that are repurposed from the cells of EV batteries.
Dickerson says Revov plays an important role in the circular economy, a concept that is not yet mainstream but gaining momentum.
He says that after a few years of operation in an EV, the weight of the then older-technology battery – with batteries fast becoming smaller and lighter – no longer justifies its output, which means it is replaced with newer technology.
In the absence of a viable recycling value chain, these batteries often end up in landfills – the opposite of what saving the planet should look like, says Dickerson.
“However, the individual cells in these EV batteries still have many years’ life – up to 10 or 15 years – if they are repurposed and built into batteries that are designed for stationary storage where weight doesn’t matter.
“These are called second life (2nd LiFe) batteries.”
He explains that ‘LiFe’ is a play on the periodic table symbols for lithium and iron.
“Sure, there are brand-new lithium batteries that are built to go into the storage market, but when you consider that there is a trivial difference in performance, and in some instances superior performance from the EV cells used in 2nd LiFe batteries, it becomes a no-brainer,” adds Dickerson.
“Why add additional strain to the lithium supply chain when we can solve a massive problem for the EV industry?
“The whole point of introducing 2nd LiFe into the energy storage sector in South Africa and other African countries is to lighten the carbon load on our planet. It’s absolutely in all our best interests that South Africa embraces the circular economy.”
With South Africa’s EV market set to gather momentum over the coming years, Dickerson believes that local carmakers will find that they, too, will be faced with the dilemma EV manufacturers are finding in more mature EV markets such as China.
Growing lithium shortages are also likely to add pressure to the 1st LiFe battery market, not least on supplier margins, notes Dickerson.
“I predict that 2nd LiFe batteries will become the dominant battery type providing energy backup to power installations and UPS systems in sub-Saharan Africa.”