Nearly fifteen billion primary batteries end up in landfills every year. Only a very small percentage of batteries purchased end up being recycled. The average American household uses forty-eight single-use batteries a year. This amount of batteries could easily be replaced by twelve rechargeable batteries that last approximately four years before needing to be replaced. Imagine if, instead of throwing old batteries away, we found a second life for them. One that not only keeps them from ending up in landfills but also helps us to achieve greater energy independence and live a greener, more sustainable life.
There are companies now looking to cash in on the trend towards greener, more sustainable energy by addressing the issue of storage. While we have made great strides in harnessing the power of the sun, wind, and even the oceans, the main impediment towards increased integration has been the issue of storage and distribution. These companies have found ways to give batteries a second life to power buildings, generate power during events and disaster relief, and run transportation systems. A great example is the energy storage at BMW operated by E2M.
While it is inevitable that many batteries will need to be recycled once they have reached the end of their life cycle, many batteries remain capable of holding a charge even after being retired. This usually occurs when batteries are used for industrial, commercial, or infrastructure-related purposes, such as batteries used to power electric buses. Once the batteries drop below a certain level of efficiency, they are retired. They are still “good” and capable of holding a charge, but no longer perform at the optimum level. These batteries provide unique opportunities for companies selling second-life, advanced battery systems.
Both companies and governments will need to consider policies and programs that would incorporate the recycling of batteries into the supply chain. That and several other end of life considerations are still significant concerns for those in the industry. One of the primary concerns will, of course, be cost. Incorporating second life batteries into the supply chain will differ from one project to another but is already a highly lucrative investment. However, the rise of renewable and sustainable energy becomes increasingly inevitable will create interesting and lucrative business opportunities to use second-life batteries to solve our energy storage issues.