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the end of polluting generators with Mobilize and betteries

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the end of polluting generators with Mobilize and betteries

The start-up betteries, with the help of Mobilize, is developing the betterGen, a generator based entirely on the reuse of electric vehicle batteries. This innovation is a 100%-electric replacement for classic power units.

This gives it the potential to transform the independent power generation equipment market, while also prolonging the use of batteries after their lives in vehicles are over. Read on to find out about the three levels to this revolution.

  • energy storage
  • energy transition

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Doubling the lifespans of batteries

Second-hand clothes shops have been all the rage in the hip areas of London, Paris and Berlin for a while now. They provide a chance to give a second life to clothes that have been hanging in wardrobes gathering dust. It’s the same motivation that drove the start-up betteries, in partnership with Mobilize, to reuse the batteries from electric cars, of which there are more and more on the roads, after their lives in the vehicles are up.

The quantity of lithium-ion batteries being made has grown by 80 times since the year 2000 and, over this period, 66% of them were used to power electric cars. The International Energy Agency predicts that this number will be 17 times higher by 2030. It is therefore vital to recycle these batteries the best we can, but, above all, to prolong their useful lives in order to reduce their carbon footprint.

For Mobilize, recycling a battery is the final stage in a cycle which aims first to maximise its lifespan. The charging capacity of the battery is optimal throughout the period of possession of the vehicle. If there are any problems, the Renault warranty provides for it to be repaired. But, even if it cannot be restored to the right conditions to play its crucial role in the propulsion of the electric vehicle, the battery doesn’t end up in the bin… or, more accurately, the recycling!

Because it still has a charging capacity more than sufficient for other uses that are less demanding than vehicles. Betteries, along with Mobilize, which is using the expertise gained through its projects to help the start-up, is thinking up more and more applications to give these high-tech objects a second life. It would be a shame to have to make new batteries for alternative uses while simultaneously destroying batteries that still work well… The two partners are providing an opportunity for batteries from electric vehicles to be reused, making their lifespans up to twice as long.

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10 tonnes less CO2

Rainer Hönig, the CEO and founder of betteries, explained how his team invented an independent power generation device made from electric car batteries. “It all starts when we recover the battery modules. We put them together to form a betterPack, which is the heart of our generator. We designed it to be a system based on components we can connect together.”  So the basic unit developed by betteries is the betterPack, a sort of cube made up of reused battery modules. Each betterPack can be stacked onto another betterPack, which is how a betterGen – a proper mobile generator – is made.

Each betterGen, dreamed up to replace a diesel or petrol power units, saves 10 tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime. “Our betterGen generator is completely clean, zero-emission and silent. It is modular, so you can adjust its storage capacity and power,” Hönig said. The possibility of adjusting it to exactly what is needed in each situation lessens its impact on the environment even further. As well as its 230V AC, it can deliver 48V DC and be recharged with a solar panel.

The second-hand market is promising since electric traction batteries enter it when they have lost barely a few hundredths of their capacity. There is therefore a huge amount of uses for these parts just waiting to be invented. “I founded betteries in 2018 with the desire to truly ‘upcycle’ electric vehicle batteries – that is, to reuse them in a different situation – to combat climate change and contribute to the protection of natural resources,” the betteries CEO enthuses.

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Infinite uses

Power units are used in places the electricity distribution network doesn’t cover, or to provide back-up if the mains supply cuts out. That’s why the betterGen has as many possible uses as its users can come up with: in the construction sector, in the entertainment sector, and even in all outdoor and travelling activities, but also for various uses in developing countries.

This 100%-electric generator opens up countless possibilities, from recreational to the vital. The betterGen from betteries can power objects such as coffee machines or beer engines… in any circumstances! This could be revolutionary for the organisers of festivals located out in the middle of nowhere, for example. Rather than using petrol-guzzling generators, they can get themselves a betterGen to reduce their carbon footprint. The power units used by food trucks or the teams on construction sites could also be replaced. As for fishers, who often head out to sea on small lightweight vessels that release hydrocarbons, they could benefit from using them on their boats.

Another one of the betterPack’s strong points is its advanced technology. It is a connected object. The data from the betterPack is stored in the cloud. “So you can monitor what is happening in the generator remotely. You can also download software and add payment services,” said the betteries CEO.

“Our expertise is expanding outwards in different directions. We know the second-hand markets and where it could be useful, in developed economies and in emerging countries in Africa and Asia,” Hönig says with satisfaction. The start-up will be making use of production facilities belonging to its partner Mobilize to add a new dimension to its pursuit of these opportunities, since the betterPack will very soon be assembled in the Renault Group Re-Factory, the first European circular economy factory devoted to transport, in Flins (France).

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used batteries as a source of green energy

used batteries as a source of green energy

they could become key parts of urban ecology over the next few decades

stationary storage: batteries at the service of renewable energies

SCOREBOARD

stationary storage: batteries at the service of renewable energies

What if we focused on batteries to accelerate the energy transition? That’s the challenge Mobilize has set itself, using batteries before and after they have been fitted in vehicles to store electricity produced from renewable energy sources.

  • energy storage
  • energy transition

number of lives that Renault Group’s electric vehicle batteries have:

a life in the vehicle… so that it can be driven; and a life outside the vehicle… so that they can stock and destock energy in many different situations. It is only after providing excellent, loyal service during their two-faceted lives, that these batteries are dismantled at Renault Group’s Re-Factory in Flins, and recycled by Veolia.

potential capacity of the battery at the end of its automotive life

As it happens, the average lifetime of a car battery is conveniently the same as that of the car itself. However, after this time, it will still have around three-quarters of its full capacity. That’s when it takes on other uses, serving the electrical grid.

year of birth of the ABS project

The large-scale stationary energy storage project Advanced Battery Storage (ABS) uses both second-life and brand-new batteries intended for future use in vehicles, which are installed in many containers connected to the high-voltage distribution network. What’s the aim? To overcome the intermittency of low-carbon energy production from renewable energy sources.

position occupied by the Advanced Battery Storage project…

on the list of the biggest stationary storage facilities in operation thanks to electric vehicle batteries. ABS’s energy capacity stands at almost 20 MWh in France and 3 MWh in Germany.

number of ABS installations in Europe

The first two Advanced Battery Storage facilities have been installed in Douai, France, at a Renault vehicle production site, and in Elverlingsten, Germany, at a former coal-fired power station now geared towards the energy transition. A third ABS facility has been installed in Flins, France, in the factory that mostly produces the Renault ZOE.

perspective on the potential…

In the long-term, the overall storage capacity of the Advanced Battery Storage project will stand at 70 MWh. Just to put the great potential of this particular technology into perspective, its capacity could equate to the daily electrical consumption of a town of 5,000 households.

energy capacity of the device in Flins

It makes perfect sense to install the very latest ABS storage site in Flins, home to Europe’s first circular-economy factory dedicated to mobility. Facility capacity: 15.5 MWh. Like its older sister in Douai, the Flins storage site will regulate the difference between energy production and consumption in real time to integrate as much green electricity as possible into the grid.

size of the Smart Hubs project

Mobilize has already supplied 1,000 second-life batteries originally used in the Kangoo Z.E. model for the Smart Hubs project, under development. Destination: Sussex, United Kingdom. Stored in a series of containers, these batteries are intended to power shopping centres, social housing, or even charging stations for electric vehicles.

how used electric vehicle batteries can become a source of green energy

electric vehicle batteries
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how used electric vehicle batteries can become a source of green energy

There is this idea that batteries for electric vehicles are bad for the environment, right? Not so fast.

There are ways to extend their lifespan while making a positive contribution to the energy transition. In fact, batteries could even become key parts of urban ecology over the next few decades. It’s a complex but fascinating situation.
Learn more in this guide tailored to different levels of background knowledge.

  • electric vehicle
  • energy storage
  • energy transition

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beginner level

Today, a lithium-ion battery has the same lifespan as the vehicle in which it is installed. The driver does not care about its charging capacity. But what happens afterwards?

The first option is to recycle the batteries at the end of their life. A seemingly obvious solution! And Renault Group has formed a partnership with Solvay and Veolia for this purpose.

But before recycling them, we can give these batteries a “second life” by using them for something other than powering a car. After all, even when it has reached the end of its useful lifespan for automotive purposes, it is estimated that a battery will still have around 70% of its capacity, or several dozen kWh, so it can still be used for many other purposes.

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intermediate level

Given the volume of electric cars expected to hit the market in coming years, being able to extend their lifespan is essential. In 2020, sales of electric cars in Europe rose nearly 60% compared to the 2019 figures, according to a report by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA). As “clean” cars and fleets of electric vehicles available on a carsharing basis become more common, batteries at the end of their lifespan will soon number in the hundreds of thousands.

Mobilize’s teams already have solid experience in managing the entire battery lifespan. They work with partners to design applications offering energy solutions for different needs, while extending the period of time the batteries can be used.

An initial solution is to refurbish them into other forms, with different powers and voltages. In this way, batteries formerly used in electric vehicles can serve as an auxiliary energy source. For example, a parked food truck still needs electricity to power its refrigerators and kitchen equipment. Why not use a separate battery for that? Even at home, a back-up battery can prove useful as a supply of cheap energy to use at peak times or in a place without an electrical outlet. Long before they need to be recycled, batteries that can no longer be used to power a car with sufficient driving range can still be used in many other areas.

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expert level

According to McKinsey*, over the next few decades, “the strong uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) will result in the availability of terawatt-hours of batteries that no longer meet required specifications for usage in an EV.” But these batteries reaching the end of their lifespan for automotive use isn’t a problem – it’s an opportunity. The firm projects that “the second-life-battery supply [to the grid] could exceed 200 gigawatt-hours per year by 2030.”

One solution for seizing this opportunity on an industrial scale is stationary storage: grouping batteries from EVs in structured systems at dedicated sites to offer massive energy storage. The facility can be linked to the national electricity grid and offer real-time regulation of the gap between the production and consumption of energy in the grid. In this way, after around 10 years of service in a vehicle, the battery gets a new life for a similar period of time but in a stationary place, often in a container equipped and adapted specifically for this purpose.

With the Advanced Battery Storage (ABS), project launched in 2018, Renault Group was one of the first automotive manufacturers to realize the advantages of this solution of the future.

After small-scale experiments in Porto Santo, Portugal, Renault Group installed second-life and first-life batteries (for after-sales use) offering a capacity of 4.9 MWh at Renault Group’s George Besse plant based in Northern France. Later, in 2020, a second stationary storage site was opened in Elverlingsen, Germany, housing 72 Renault ZOE batteries for a capacity of 2.9 MWh. Rolled out in both France and Germany, Advanced Battery Storage is the largest stationary storage system that uses electric vehicle batteries. Eventually, this project – which is now part of the Mobilize ecosystem – is expected to reach a total capacity of 70 MWh.

Another example, Smart Hubs in the United Kingdom, is a large-scale project that demonstrates the clear benefits of this application. Renault Group has supplied it with 1,000 second-life batteries. At this facility, each container houses 24 Renault Kangoo Z.E. batteries and, depending on the demand and placement, can be used to power industrial and commercial sites, social housing or even, in an ironic twist, electric vehicle recharging stations! For that purpose, the container can be outfitted with solar panels for a truly virtuous circuit: old electric car batteries recharging new ones in a sustainable and low-cost energy cycle.

All of this proves the relevance of the model: electric cars will no longer simply reduce air pollution but also indirectly provide the resources to store renewable energy on a small and large scale, thereby making a positive contribution to the energy transition. This is the type of development that Renault Group’s creation of Mobilize promotes. Automotive manufacturers no longer aim simply to design and manufacture vehicles but also to help optimize the energy ecosystem as a whole. In this framework, whether in mobile or stationary use, electric vehicle batteries will have a central role to play over the coming decades.

* Second-life EV batteries: The newest value pool in energy storage

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the end of polluting generators

the end of polluting generators

a generator based entirely on the reuse of electric vehicle betteries

the energy mix in geographic regions: an overview on 3 levels

mix énergétique mobilize
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the energy mix in geographic regions: an overview on 3 levels

It’s clear: we now have no choice but to decrease our civilization’s dependence on fossil fuels. Fossils fuels currently account for 80% of the world’s ”energy mix”, or the distribution of various sources of primary energy used in a given geographic region. What effects does this have?

Air pollution, global warming, natural resource depletion and more – nothing very cheerful. But there’s good news: real solutions are beginning to be developed, especially in the transportation sector. The following is an overview of the solutions at three levels.

  • electric vehicle
  • energy storage
  • shared mobility

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The energy transition: technology leads the way

Renewable energy is gaining in power: in Europe, its share in the electricity mix rose from 34.6% to 38% over a year (between 2019 and 2020), outstripping fossil fuels (only 37% of the mix) for the very first time. And this slow but steady progress has been achieved which the transport sector has not always helped to accelerate. Even today, it’s one of the sectors that depends the most heavily on fossil fuels, accounting for over half of the world’s oil consumption.

The reason this energy transition has been so hard for the transportation sector to make is that it requires a paradigm shift, starting at a technological level. For example, after decades spent improving internal combustion engines, designers had to come up with all kinds of other engines, naturally including electric ones, an area in which Renault Group was a pioneer in the automotive sector, but also engines that ran on hydrogen and biofuels, or biokerosene for aircraft.

To make a real contribution to meeting these challenges, Renault Group has created a new brand, Mobilize. Its goal is to reinvent the transportation of tomorrow and help achieve the Group’s commitments in terms of becoming carbon neutral by 2040. In 2023, Mobilize will release a 100% electric vehicle designed for shared transportation. The brand will also offer other vehicles intended for specific uses such as merchandise delivery.

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Changing practices: the transportation sector joins in the energy transition

But apart from the technological level, the energy transition will take place in our practices. The ideal of owning a car of one’s own, traditionally associated with independence and long held as a value in society, is now losing ground. Many young people in cities are no longer interested in owning individual cars, preferring to use “on demand” transportation services. Car-sharing for example has become very popular, to the point that it has become normal to use self-service transportation solutions.

This is why the Mobilize vehicle designed for car-sharing will not be available for purchase. Its users will pay only for what they use, fees being calculated based on time or distance. And algorithms will make it possible to reposition the vehicles in the right part of the city after maintenance so the next users can find them easily.

Mobilize’s goal is to develop services to reinvent transportation, not to manufacture electric vehicles to sell. Its first order of business is therefore to accelerate the advent of sustainable and inclusive transportation. The brand aims to rethink transportation for decreased emissions and resource use. Mobilize vehicles are therefore being designed not as objects but as services. The transportation of tomorrow, according to Mobilize, needs to be smarter, greener, easier to access and share and to be available to all, everywhere.

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Toward sustainable cities

In addition to these technological innovations and practices, cities themselves are changing. They’re starting to give more space to vegetation, and a number of large cities have even introduced low-emissions zones that are off-limits to the most polluting vehicles. Tomorrow, sustainable cities will be navigable solely by eco-friendly, clean and shared transportation.

In this sense, Mobilize’s electric vehicles will also be full-fledged players in the energy transition in cities. Places and the connections linking them need to be designed with sustainability in mind. For this reason, fleets using Renault Group models have the Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology so they can be connected to both the environment and the grid. Batteries from electric vehicles can therefore be used to store electricity and supply it to the grid as needed, even when still installed in the vehicles (in a sort of “mobile” energy storage system). Mobilize is positioning itself as a contributor to the ecological transition: recharging cars only when electricity is the most available promotes the use of renewable energy rather than fossil fuels.

And the batteries also get a second life after their automotive use. After being retired from use in electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries can be used in “stationary” storage systems in which they store green energy as soon as it’s produced. The Group and its partners have already installed systems of this type in Porto Santo (Portugal), France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

In particular, this mechanism addresses the issue of the intermittence of renewable energies, which leads to discontinuous energy production. Although we have no power over natural elements such as the sun and the wind and therefore cannot guarantee uninterrupted production, we can store this energy – between its production and consumption – to create a reserve to draw from when demand is greater than supply. Although different options are being studied (hydrogen, thermal storage etc.), electric vehicle batteries currently seem to be the most advantageous solution. Mobilize remains open to innovation and research for a more sustainable future mobility, and intends to move the lines quickly.