MNTRC Newsletter Vol 19, Issue 2: Fall 2012

How we can increase sustainable transit

Charles Standridge, PhD, Assistant Dean, Padnos College of Engineering and Computing

Prof. Lindsay Corneal and Dr. Charles Standridge work with unassembled lithium-ion battery packs.

Professor Lindsay Corneal of the GVSU School of Engineering and Dr. Charles Standridge work with unassembled lithium-ion battery packs.

GVSU News – Faculty, graduate students, and staff from Grand Valley State University’s School of Engineering and the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC) have a valuable and challenging project. They are continuing their research on remanufacturing, repurposing, and recycling electric batteries from transit vehicles.  The special focus is on lithium-ion batteries.

The team is working in partnership with Sybesma’s Electronics, a third-generation family owned business in Holland, Michigan, to insure that the work has industrial applications. The project’s overarching goal is to provide better economic value to transit operators who use electric vehicles, thus increasing the sustainability of public transit.

Lithium supply may be insufficient

An initial literature review has revealed some important issues. First, the world supply of lithium may not be sufficient to support the long-term demand for lithium-ion batteries. And second, the market for these batteries is expanding to include energy storage applications.

These two points support the need for remanufacturing and repurposing existing batteries. For example, a lithium ion battery pack will reach the point when it can no longer meet the charge-holding standard for vehicle use. However, the same pack is likely to have sufficient charge capacity for energy storage applications.

Many batteries can be reused

When lithium-ion battery packs fail, it is likely that many of the batteries can be reused and only a few must be discarded. Thus, remanufacturing processes are needed for disassembling an existing battery pack, testing and identifying the usable cells, and reassembling the usable cells into new packs designed for alternative applications. Of course, safety is paramount in developing these processes. Improper discharging and recharging must be prevented, as well as chemical spills, fires, and other incidents.

In addition, we must assess the economic benefits of employing remanufactured and repurposed batteries, along with new batteries, over 20-25 years for various demand scenarios. This assessment helps to determine the utility and value of remanufacturing and repurposing lithium-ion batteries.  
The Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning (LEAP) system will be used to develop this supply-demand-cost planning model. The components are currently being defined.

For more information, email or call (616) 331-6260.