The battery room
Second life batteries - from demonstration to business
Demonstration projects are often the necessary first steps when developing new technology for a larger market. Within the EU-project IRIS Smart Cities, Volvo Group started exploring if used bus batteries could be used as energy storages in residential buildings. Now it has created a new business area with focus, among other things, on giving used batteries a second life.
It was Johanneberg Science Park who connected two of its collaborative flagship projects – ElectriCity, running an electric bus line through Gothenburg and Positive Footprint Housing, where Riksbyggen aimed to build Sweden´s most sustainable housing complex, Viva – to see if there where synergies that could be made by using batteries from buses as energy storages in buildings. A demonstration project was born and written into the application of IRIS Smart Cites, an EU-project where Johanneberg Science Park coordinates the efforts of Gothenburg to develop smart, sustainable solutions to be replicated throughout Europe.
“This is really an example of how we as a science park connect partners and projects to get the most out of innovations. The aim is always to get demonstrations to take the next step, towards commercialization, replication and export,” says Eva Pavic, project manager in charge of IRIS Smart Cities at Johanneberg Science Park.
So, in the summer of 2018, 14 batteries from the Volvo-produced buses of ElectriCity were installed in a specially designed room the newly built housing association Viva. To power a bus takes a lot of battery capacity and when the batteries no longer have power to serve the buses it still has about 80 percent of its capacity left. While too limited to efficiently propel a bus, it is more than sufficient for static use for energy storage purposes, such as storing of solar energy in an apartment building.
“The project has been so exciting and given us a lot of knowledge about how to develop the technology around second life batteries,” says Ylva Olofsson, System Design Engineer at Volvo GTT, Powertrain Engineering. “The next step we took was dealing more with the business perspective.”
In the end of 2019 Volvo initiated a cooperation with Stena Recycling subsidiary Batteryloop where the bus batteries become part of a circular business cycle. The batteries are installed in places like buildings or charging stations for electrified vehicles. The first installation was made in Stena Property residential area Fyrklövern, where - as in Viva - the reused bus batteries are charged from solar panels on the roofs. Here the electricity that is stored will be used for public areas such as laundries and outdoor lighting. When the batteries come to the end of their second life as energy storage units Batteryloop commits to safe and environmentally suitable recycling.
“Where in the Viva-project we have an ownership of the whole system, here we deliver the batteries to Batteryloop, who is then in charge of the further installation. It is a business agreement that saves natural resources, but it also has a business potential for Volvo and this is an important part to scale up the concept and make a larger impact, says Stefan Widlund, City Mobility Director at Volvo Buses.
The agreement with Batteryloop covers all batteries for full electric buses for which Volvo is responsible. To date most of these buses are to be found in Europe but the numbers are expected to increase globally. Because of this expected increase along with an increasing interest in the potential of second life batteries Volvo Group launched the new business area Volvo Energy in early 2021. In a press release Volvo Group announces that “Volvo Energy will strengthen the business flow of batteries over the life cycle as well as the customer offer for charging infrastructure.”
“The research project in Viva was the basis for us taking the next step with Stena and Batteryloop. The third step into a new business area really shows that there are high expectations for the commercial potential of second-life batteries,” says Stefan Widlund.
And while the project in Viva is still running, a lot of knowledge has already been gained.
“We saw that the batteries in the storage are ageing slower than expected which is very positive. On the other hand, safety issues make it quite expensive to build the storage within the building itself – in Fyrklövern for example the storage was put in a separate building. We also learnt a lot about the contracts and agreements that where needed when many stakeholders are involved. Now that the storage has been in operation for a couple of years, we are of course very curious to see what the algorithms of Göteborg Energi will show about the total effect of the battery storage,” says Ylva Olofsson.
“This is exactly what we hope to see happening with the innovations that we test in IRIS Smart Cities. The demonstration phase is important to gain knowledge and experience, but it doesn’t stop there – it is only when scaled up that these innovations can benefit society by both creating economic growth and using natural resources more efficiently. We have also contributed to building new networks and connections and who knows what new synergies can come out of that!” says Eva Pavic.
Energy Strorage at the Housing Association Viva
Project partners in the Energy storage at the housing association Viva are Volvo Buses, Göteborg Energi, Johanneberg Science Park and Riksbyggen. The IRIS Smart Cities project is co-financing the project. The preconditions for an upscaling of the energy storage within Riksbyggen's properties are now being investigated.