by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
- Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries made for Electric Vehicles (EVs) only use around 70% of their life, the remaining 30% can be used for the second life
- One second-life application being explored by researchers at WMG, University of Warwick, is for motorized rickshaws (easy-bikes) in Bangladesh
- The current batteries used for easy-bikes only last 6-12 months and have a high carbon footprint, therefore using used Li-ion batteries could lower their carbon footprint
Used EV batteries could be used to power rickshaws in Bangladesh, as researchers from WMG, University of Warwick, seeking to find out how they can be repurposed for the rickshaws and lower peoples’ carbon footprint.
Motorised rickshaws, also known as easy-bikes, have gained popularity in Bangladesh due to their cost-effectiveness with one million of them all over the country.
However, the easy-bike currently uses a lead-acid battery for power, which has a lifetime of 6-12 months and therefore increases the operating cost as well as the carbon footprint.
In order to reduce the carbon footprint, researchers at WMG are exploring the possibility of repurposing used EV Li-ion batteries thanks to a £25,000 grant from Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), an award from the UKRI aimed to deliver scalable solutions to issues faced by low and middle-income countries.
Currently, Li-ion batteries retire from EVs after reaching 70-80% of their state of health (SoH). At 70% SoH, the lithium-ion battery still have 3 times higher energy density than a new lead-acid battery, and potentially can have a lifetime of 3-5 years in easy-bike application.
The researchers hope to repurpose the batteries to improve the energy storage life from 6-12 months to 3-5 years, which in turn will reduce the number of batteries being recycled and improve the ecosystem.
The new application of Li-ion batteries will be better environmentally without an additional cost in transport. As easy-bike replaces manual driving, the quality of life will improve significantly and bring a socio-economic change to a large community in Bangladesh. Furthermore, this development could reduce the consumption of grid-connected electricity which could be used to develop industries and infrastructure.
In fact, there are currently one million rickshaw pullers in Bangladesh who earn $4.8 billion every year. The new development in easy-bikes will directly improve their economic status. A few million people involved in vehicle support such as mechanics and manufacturing industries will also be benefited.
This project eventually could lead to mass production of second-life Li-ion batteries in Bangladesh, in conjunction with UK automobile industries, which will create job opportunities for thousands of people.
Dr Mohammad Al-Amin from WMG, University of Warwick comments: “To prevent climate change, all cars in the future will need to be electric. However, the batteries in EVs once they have reached their end of life, for car purposes, is something that can be explored more, as there is still energy left in them to be used.”
“If we can re-purpose them to be used for easy-bikes in Bangladesh it will help lower their carbon footprint and provide the country with a new economy. Thousands of jobs opportunities could be created both in Bangladesh and the UK.”
OK, so much for the press release that has been relayed above.
I must say that I am very much unconvinced about the statement as to the lead-acid batteries lasting only such a short time considering that golf buggies and the Toro electric vehicles (and others) used on golf courses and such, as well as the electric milk floats in the UK, are in daily use and recharged daily and their batteries seem to last for years.
Lithium-ion batteries have a large environmental footprint not least caused by mining operations and then the inherent dangers of being prone to explode when charging and such like and, should they catch fire, are almost impossible to extinguish. In more than one case of an accident with a Tesla vehicle where the car caught fire (and this is mostly the case) the fire spread so rapidly that it was impossible to rescue the occupant(s). The vehicles then have to be cooled down in a special container or the flames doused for at least three days, and even afterwards there remains the danger that the battery can self-ignite again.
There have also been a number of fires recorded that have been started by exploding e-Bike batteries well after those batteries had been removed from their chargers. Several of those started in cycle shops where the batteries that had been charged has been brand-new ones.
On top of that comes the safe disposal of those batteries at the end of their lives which, apparently, is also a small environmental nightmare.
From where I am standing the good old lead-acid battery still has a lot going for it, at least in the above rickshaw department and, as said, I do not buy the short lifespan of them. The general lifespan of the Li-on battery also appears to be no more than three to four years, if lucky, however well one deals with the maintenance cycles when charging.