MNTRC Newsletter Vol 19, Issue 3: Winter 2012

Li-ion battery reuse model nears completion


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

GVSU News – Faculty members, graduate students, and staff from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in the School of Engineering and the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC) are continuing their research regarding remanufacturing, repurposing and recycling electric batteries from transit vehicles such as buses.

Large pile of used cellphone batteries

Discarded or returned phone batteries can be remanufactured and redistributed.

Source: Cadex

With its focus on lithium-ion batteries, the team is working in partnership with Sybesma’s Electronics, a third-generation family owned business in Holland MI, to insure that this work has industrial applications.

Improving the economics of sustainable transit operation

The overarching goal is to provide better economic value to transit operators who use electric vehicles, and thus to increase sustainability of public transit. The project has four major components:

  • A dynamic simulation model of the supply, demand, and economics of lithium-ion battery remanufacturing, repurposing, and recycling
  • Remanufacturing process development with emphasis on safe handling of batteries
  • Recycling process development and economic analysis
  • Repurposing demonstration development

The first version of the dynamic simulation model should be complete by the end of this year. The model incorporates a range of demand projections extracted from the published literature. It considers the apparent shift in demand in the lithium-ion battery market toward stationary storage applications. Regarding economics, the model takes into account recycling costs versus remanufacturing costs and benefits. 

Safety a key issue in li-ion battery remanufacturing

Safety is the single most significant issue in lithium-ion battery remanufacturing. Battery packs must be taken apart, reassembled and tested. This testing involves repeatedly charging and discharging the batteries. To facilitate this process, the research team worked closely with Sybesma’s Electronics to design and build a work bench that meets safety requirements. The bench completely encloses the battery pack and allows the operator to drop the pack into a sealed container instantly if a hazardous incident occurs.

Recycling and repurposing activities are in their initial stages. Equipment necessary to disassemble the lithium-ion batteries is on order. The needed batteries are in-hand. The disassembly task is focused on determining the aftermarket value of the battery materials.

Secondary-use applications demonstrated

Goals of the repurposing demonstration task include showing the effectiveness of using transit vehicle batteries for aftermarket secondary storage applications, as well as analyzing the economics of such applications.

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