Millions of electric and hybrid vehicles contain batteries expected to last up to a decade, but what options are available when they reach their end of life?
Flinders University and Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (Mitsubishi) are partnering to develop a new lease on life for used electric vehicle traction batteries.
A Heads of Agreement has been signed by both parties to continue this and other research projects into the future.
Flinders University Professor and Head of Civil Engineering, Rocco Zito, will work with Mitsubishi at Tonsley to source, evaluate and research second life applications for used batteries as part of an innovative new research program.
The program has been kick-started by Flinders University, providing Climate Response seed funding, with other stakeholders including representatives from the South Australian Government and Industry.
Professor Zito says the project aims to repurpose used electric vehicle traction batteries through various applications by developing innovative designs, which could potentially be utilised in commercial products.
“This pilot project with Mitsubishi Motors is an exciting opportunity to investigate potential second life uses for electric and hybrid vehicle batteries, by applying remanufacturing techniques or developing repurposing options for these battery packs,” says Professor Zito.
“If our study can demonstrate large scale or long term secondary applications for the automotive batteries, we will work with Mitsubishi to determine the most feasible options so the batteries can one day be redeployed while also developing an improved understanding about the technical requirements for new applications.”
Professor Zito is also collaborating with other Flinders University researchers, including Professor John Spoehr to investigate ways of applying Industry 4.0 processes for the remanufacturing of the batteries, and Professor David Lewis who will apply the latest technologies to sustainably extract and recycle heavy metals from the batteries once they are deemed to have no further operational life.
As sales of electric and hybrid vehicles grow around the world, Flinders University researchers are focusing on finding solutions for second and even third life of the batteries, as well as end of life recycling to minimise environmental impacts and the cost of materials for manufacturers.
“If we can mitigate the environmental impacts and ensure batteries are repurposed and the materials are finally recycled rather than dumped, the results could open up many new opportunities,” Professor Zito says.
Owen Thomson, Mitsubishi Motors’ Senior Manager for Product Strategy says: “Since 2010 we have directed efforts into giving our customers additional and more sustainable choices through the development of Electric Vehicles and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles, which have the potential to reduce environmental impacts and costs.
“We know there are significant opportunities to repurpose or remanufacture these materials to maximise sustainability at the end of vehicle life – and that’s why this partnership with Flinders University is so promising.”