Used Chevrolet Volt batteries help power GM Data Center

Article by Andrew Christian, on June 18, 2015

Now that Chevrolet is near to launching the second-generation Volt for 2016, it’s high time to explore what can be done with the batteries from the first-generation units. It turns out that it still has a lot of use. For instance, five of these batteries are currently helping sustain the lights at the new General Motors Enterprise Data Center at its Milford Proving Ground.

There are plenty of applications for these repurposed scrap Volt batteries including bat houses and nesting boxes for certain duck species. Typically, the Volt gets its power from a band of energy in the battery pack so there’s an ample supply of power for stationary use. The circuit breaker panel of the administration building receives power from a new solar array and two wind turbines.

This panel holds five Volt batteries, which work together with the main power supply and deliver net-zero energy use on an annual basis. Pablo Valencia, senior manager, Battery Life Cycle Management, said that as much as 80% of the battery’s storage capacity is left even after it has come to the end of its life in a Chevrolet Volt.

He also said that this secondary use application reduces waste and leads to additional economic benefits for the industry. If the Milford campus suffers an outage, the batteries offer back-up power for four hours. If it’s not needed, energy is stored.

The excess energy is then returned to the grid. All of the energy requirements for the office building and lighting for the parking lot beside it are provided by the 74-kilowatt ground-mount solar array and the two 2kW wind turbines. Every year, these renewable sources are capable of generating about 100 Mwh of energy, about the same as the energy needed by 12 households.

With this secondary application, the automaker gets a better understanding of how battery redistribution is at this scale. Chevrolet has partnered with other companies to test and confirm systems for other uses, both commercial and non-commercial.

Valencia also said that the system is “ideal” to be used commercially since the existing battery offers full functionality but there is a reduction in the upfront costs. In addition, the reuse of Volt batteries made the data center administration building qualify for a LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Press Release

Used Chevrolet Volt Batteries Help Power New IT Building

What happens to the batteries that power Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric cars when their useful life is done? Five of them are helping keep the lights on at the new General Motors Enterprise Data Center at its Milford Proving Ground.

Repurposed scrap Volt battery covers already star in a variety of applications, from bat houses to nesting boxes for endangered duck species. Now, as Chevrolet closes on the second-generation Volt for 2016, it’s time to begin tapping the energy left in batteries from first-generation models.

Because the Volt typically draws its power from a band of energy in the battery pack, there is a lot of leftover juice for stationary use. A new solar array and two wind turbines feed the administration building’s circuit breaker panel, where the five Volt batteries work in parallel to supply power to the building, delivering net-zero energy use on an annual basis.

“Even after the battery has reached the end of its useful life in a Chevrolet Volt, up to 80 percent of its storage capacity remains,” said Pablo Valencia, senior manager, Battery Life Cycle Management. “This secondary use application extends its life, while delivering waste reduction and economic benefits on an industrial scale.”

The batteries also can provide back-up power to the building for four hours in the event of an outage and stores it when it’s unneeded. Excess energy is sent back to the grid that supplies the Milford campus.

The 74-kilowatt ground-mount solar array coupled with the two 2kW wind turbines generate enough power to provide all of the energy needs for the office building and lighting for the adjacent parking lot. Together, these renewable sources generate approximately 100 Mwh of energy annually, roughly equivalent to the energy used by 12 average households.

The secondary application is being used as a living lab to understand how the battery redistributes energy at this scale. And the company is working with partners to validate and test systems for other commercial and non-commercial uses.

“This system is ideal for commercial use because a business can derive full functionality from an existing battery while reducing upfront costs through this reuse,” Valencia said.

The reuse of Volt batteries also helped the data center administration building attain LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

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