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Steering towards a circular economy

Est. reading time: 5 min

In essence it is all about saving resources and CO2

Lithium batteries traditionally have been designed for specific purposes like Electric Vehicles, backup for solar PV panels or energy storage systems, gadgets, etc. While being used, their capacity slowly reduces over their lifetime and are typically discarded when most of their capacity is still available, which is a premature stage to recycle them. Recycling only makes sense when the lithium batteries cannot be repurposed or reused. Lithium batteries can be used for a period of 8-20 years depending on their applications. The more stressful the application is, the shorter is the expected life span.

But operating life can be extended significantly by reusing batteries for a second life. Lithium batteries can be considered CO2 neutral when used in clean applications. For example, EX and solar systems offset the emissions from the production. Is a second life given to those batteries, their carbon footprint becomes even smaller or in other words positive. 

» We asked ourselves - what if we could design a Lithium battery which serves its purpose in campervans, boats, ESS and then transitions to lesser intensive applications like solar backup before being recycled. «

More than one life to serve many purposes

Our batteries are used in different applications across multiple continents like Europe, Africa, Latin America, Australia and Asia. We had different products for different applications, which required separate manufacturing, different components, etc. with higher carbon footprint. This also meant that the same buyer who had campervans, boats and solar system at home had three different set of batteries which were hardly used simultaneously.

If a customer is travelling in their motorhome, their solar system at home is no longer used and same the other way. To reduce the number of batteries that needed to be manufactured, we set out to create a multi-use battery product which could be easily swapped between the different applications. This multiuse and circular approach needed a new design, which can enable multi-use in its first life and can then be easily transitioned to second life before being recycled.

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All eventualities considered from the outset

How a battery is used and later handled at end of life is dictated by how the product is designed. A product built for circular economy should be able to be remanufactured, reused, and finally fully recyclable. We collected the data from our previous solutions and found potential problems and solutions to achieve a circular economy for batteries. We aimed at developing a circular battery, which could be used in multiple applications without any changes, could be reused as an affordable lithium battery for less demanding applications like backup for solar, telecom towers, etc and finally recycled to recover the precious minerals.  

Our new solutions are built for circular economy. Aspects considered during product design: product journey mapping, choosing smart and environmentally friendly materials, optimize production, minimize resource consumption and increase the resource efficiency and reduced waste generation.

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One battery for every use case

Batteries have been powering everything around us, from electric vehicles to lawn mower to our solar system at home. This means a different battery for every new and existing application, creating a huge demand for new materials and potentially a waste problem towards end of their life. To put an end to this, a battery with multiuse concept has been designed to cater to multiple use cases.

Need to store your green solar energy, BOS systems can do that. Need to go on a vacation in your motorhome, the same battery can do that, just take it out from your solar system and install it in your motorhome just before you leave. Once back home, put it back to the solar system. The product has been designed to work with different electronics and applications without needing any kind of modification. While in use, the smart electronics on board monitor the performance and usage of the batteries closely and adapt to the needs in a way that reduces the aging of the batteries.

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Extending the useful life of Lithium batteries

Once the available battery capacity has fallen below the acceptable capacity for the first time application, it is bought back from the customers to be installed for less demanding stationery applications across Europe, Asia and Africa. For stationery applications like solar, multiple of such second life batteries can be used to reach the needed battery capacity. And because space and weight is not an issue in stationery applications, this is no problem as against installing additional heavy batteries in mobile applications. In such a configuration, the batteries in their second life can last as long as 10 years if designed well for an appropriate application.  

To be able to be used for second life applications, batteries need to be designed for the purpose. We have built state of the art prediction algorithms, which accurately measure the health of the batteries, which is important to build safe, long lasting and reliable second life lithium batteries.  

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Recycling more at the end of life

After the battery capacity is down to 60%, the battery is finally collected back and sent for recycling. The electronics has been designed to completely discharge the battery before being sent for recycling, this makes the handling of lithium batteries safe. Charged lithium batteries pose significant fire hazard when sent for crushing as it is. The plastic casing is designed for ease of dismantle. The revenue that was generated from second life application will be used to subsidize the cost towards logistics for collection from customers and delivery to recycling centers. 

Traceability to enable Circularity

A key aspect of a circular economy is the ability to map and trace minerals, materials, components and final solutions throughout their life-cycle. Apart from building transparency across the value chain, it also enables matching the batteries for a second life and collecting for recycling from the customers across the globe.  We enable everyone to become part of responsible use of our valuable resources on our planet. 

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