Datum 2021-03-31
Artikeltyp News

Increased battery life gives increased environmental gains

This article was written before our official name change on January 1, 2022 from Mälardalen University (MDH) to Mälardalen University (MDU).

In 2025 about 250,000 tonnes of batteries from trains, cars and other electric vehicles will have reached the end of their lives. Today only a fifth of the battery’s full capacity is used, which has great impact on our environment since the batteries are not fully used. At MDH our researchers are investigating how the remaining capacity could be used by companies to prolong the life of the battery and thus reduce the environmental impact.

– Today only about 20 percent of the battery’s full capacity is used and after that it can’t be used to drive an electric vehicle. We are therefore investigating the possibilities of how much as possible of the remaining 80 percent can be used by companies to prolong the battery’s life, says Erik Dahlquist, researcher in Energy Engineering at MDH.

A second life can further reduce the environmental impact

Just over a year ago the research project Recreate was begun - a three-year project funded by the Knowledge Foundation. The project focuses on investigating the possibilities of prolonging the lifespan of batteries for electric vehicles such as trains, cars and other vehicles. Furthermore, the project will suggest solutions for how batteries can get a second life, for example through remanufacturing, re-using and sustainable alternatives. In this way, the basis for a more circular business model will be created, which is an important condition for us to be able to achieve the global goal of sustainable consumption and production.

The circular business model builds on making use of everything that has been manufactured, as far as is possible. When things have been expended they are re-used and recycled as much as possible over and over again – everything to consume less of the earth’s resources and reduce the amount of waste. This creates win-win situations.

In the case of batteries for electric vehicles, a second life can further reduce the environmental impact, cut production costs and furthermore give added value to the market by for example remanufacturing and recycling.

Research is done in collaboration with industrial and municipal companies

Recreate will take place in collaboration with Volvo Construction Equipment AB, Bombardier Transportation AB, Eskilstuna Strängnäs Energi and Environment AB, Mälarenergi and Kablage Produktion, among others, and will contribute solutions that the companies can use both to prolong battery life and to spare our nature. Recreate has also been presented as a good example of co-production from MDH at Volvo’s CE board meeting.

– With the help of our project partners we will analyse the battery’s value chain and suggest solutions for how the batteries could be used in organisations to prolong their life, says Koteshwar Chirumalla, Project Manager of Recreate and researcher in Product- and Process Development.

The project has just completed the first substudy, which focused on identifying obstacles and opportunities for a second life for batteries in a value chain. The study is based on 14 interviews, including Recreate’s partner companies men but also other relevant actors in the area, such as Northvolt, Epiroc, ABB Power Energy, Vattenfall, K-fast, Svealandstrafiken, Stena Recycling and Umicore.

– In the next step we will plan workshops with individual companies to discuss the results and to identify suitable business models related to how we can apply a second lifespan for electric vehicle batteries, says Koteshwar Chirumalla.

Important societal challenge linked to several of the UN’s global goals

Two research specialisations at MDH, Innovation and Product Realisation (IPR) and Future Energy (FEC), are cooperating to investigate this important societal challenge that is linked to several of the UN’s global sustainability goals.

– We will be working with this project up to 2023. It’s an important societal challenge that is linked to several global sustainability goals. Moreover we would also like to support regional small- and medium-sized companies that are interested in exploring the possibilities of the circular business model in electric vehicle contexts, says Koteshwar Chirumalla.