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EU Project Aims To Switch Data Centers To Second Hand Car Batteries

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the jump-starting-data dept.

Data Storage 87

judgecorp writes "A €2.9 million European Commission funded project aims to make data centers more efficient, and one of its ideas is to use second hand car batteries to power data centers. The GreenDataNet consortium includes Nissan, which predicts a glut of still-usable second hand car batteries in around 15 years, when the cars start to wear out. Gathered into large units, these could store enough power to help with the big problem of the electricity grid — the mismatch between local renewable generation cycles and the peaks of demand for power."

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Great (3, Interesting)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#46504795)

The used car batteries are already an inexpensive option for off-the-grid renewable energy (wind and solar) storage.

It seems a shame to discard or recycle a huge number of still viable units.

Re: Great (4, Informative)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 4 months ago | (#46505023)

Perhaps you're thinking of lead-acid batteries used in conventional ICE cars? TFA talks about using Li-ion packs from electric vehicles after they've worn down in efficiency. (The article gives the example of a 24kwh pack that only has 18kwh of capacity left, after being used for 14 years.) Even when they're worn out, such batteries are hardly "inexpensive" but they might be a good fit for peak-load smoothing in a data center or similar use. Ultimately, they'll have to be recycled, but this might be a way to get a few more years of service out of them.

Re: Great (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 4 months ago | (#46505269)

Perhaps you're thinking of lead-acid batteries used in conventional ICE cars? TFA talks about using Li-ion packs from electric vehicles after they've worn down in efficiency. (The article gives the example of a 24kwh pack that only has 18kwh of capacity left, after being used for 14 years.) Even when they're worn out, such batteries are hardly "inexpensive" but they might be a good fit for peak-load smoothing in a data center or similar use. Ultimately, they'll have to be recycled, but this might be a way to get a few more years of service out of them.

On Li-ion batteries, isn't it the membrane that loses efficiency versus the actual Li-ion substrate? If so, couldn't the substrate be reclaimed from the old batteries and re-used to make new batteries for new vehicles?

Re: Great (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 4 months ago | (#46505769)

I'm no expert, but I don't think there's a "membrane" in Li-ion cells, just a chemical lattice that breaks down a little bit with each charge-discharge cycle. Hopefully someone who actually knows will chime in...

Anyone? Bueller?

Re: Great (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 4 months ago | (#46506143)

I'm no expert, but I don't think there's a "membrane" in Li-ion cells, just a chemical lattice that breaks down a little bit with each charge-discharge cycle. Hopefully someone who actually knows will chime in...

Anyone? Bueller?

You are correct, I should have been more specific. There isn't a membrane, there is a separator which allows the ions to pass through but keeps the anode and cathode from shorting. Once the "holes" in the separator fill in, through repeated charge/discharge, the battery looses the ability to deliver the full power because it is now less, by definition less efficient (fewer electrons can move through the separator in a given amount of time). This is one of the reasons that Li-ion batteries don't have a good shelf life. A brand new battery that has been sitting on the shelf for a year before purchase, slowly discharging, will not provide the same amount of energy as a newly manufactured one, even though the old one was never "used" (which is why it is important to check manufactured dates when purchasing them). Eventually, the separator will get to the point where so few ions can go across it that the battery will not be able to recharge or provide power. The actual electrolyte is still good the separator has gone bad.

Re: Great (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 4 months ago | (#46508575)

Thank you! I wish I'd known this 20+ years ago when I was working in a camera shop, flogging the "newfangled" Li-ion batteries which were "supposed" to have a long shelf life... Even the Tech-Reps from Minolta, Pentax, etc. had no clue about this stuff. I get the feeling that even the "experts" back then didn't really have a solid grip on this chemistry (IIRC, NiMH was also in vogue back then). Anyway, I'm glad to see some progress in this area in the last few years... It's about time.

Re: Great (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 months ago | (#46509995)

Note that LiIon batteries are distinct from the non-rechargable lithium batteries.

Re: Great (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 months ago | (#46509977)

Charge loss and capacity loss are separate issues. Recharge that LiIon battery that sat for a year and all is well. After a number of charge cycles, it will lose capacity. It simply will not hold as much charge as when it was new. At that point, it can either be remanufactured or re-purposed in an application that doesn't require the full capacity, such as in a datacenter where bulk and weight are less problematic than in a car. Eventually, it will become unsuitable for that as well, and then it can be re-manufactured.

Re: Great (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 4 months ago | (#46510085)

Charge loss and capacity loss are separate issues. Recharge that LiIon battery that sat for a year and all is well. After a number of charge cycles, it will lose capacity. It simply will not hold as much charge as when it was new. At that point, it can either be remanufactured or re-purposed in an application that doesn't require the full capacity, such as in a datacenter where bulk and weight are less problematic than in a car. Eventually, it will become unsuitable for that as well, and then it can be re-manufactured.

LiIon batteries start loosing capacity from the moment they are manufactured. Recharging a battery that sat for a year is not the same as a new battery. The physics in how the battery works won't permit it to be.

There is no doubt that a LiIon battery can be repurposed and that is a better solution than throwing it in a land fill. However, with the estimated increase on electric vehicles, Lithium will be in high demand and there are very limited sources/reserves that can be mined. As such, it might still be a better solution, overall, to recycle the lithium in the battery to make new batteries versus repurposing them, since other technologies can be used to power datacenters, etc.

Re: Great (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 months ago | (#46511065)

LiIon batteries start loosing capacity from the moment they are manufactured. Recharging a battery that sat for a year is not the same as a new battery. The physics in how the battery works won't permit it to be.

I have never seen an authoritative source for that information, particularly not a manufacturer's rating. I have seen that storing a battery fully charged can shorten it's life somewhat. If it is stored until it self-discharges too deeply, it can harm the lifespan due to the over-discharge. I have stored LiIon batteries for a year or more with no appreciable loss of capacity, which is why I am willing to dismiss urban battery legends. NOTE: YMMV if you use them at a high discharge rate. I generally use them at 1C discharge and < 1C charge.

As for repurposing, presumably at some point those repurposed batteries will end up being recycled anyway as they wear out too much for their secondary use. Doing it that way gets the most value for the (re)manufacturing effort.

Re: Great (1)

kyrsjo (2420192) | about 4 months ago | (#46506363)

It probably can, but I think the point is that these used batteries are cheaper than new/recycled batteries, and still provide a quite good power density for a stationary application (just not good enough for a car).

So this way, it is possible to get a few more years out of a battery pack before it needs to be recycled.

Re: Great (3, Funny)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#46505279)

This has been discussed previously with regards to the aging fleet of electric automobiles and their need to be replaced while still useful.

Perhaps you're thinking of a posting forum in which not reading the article is frowned upon?

Re: Great (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 4 months ago | (#46505541)

Perhaps you're thinking of a posting forum in which not reading the article is frowned upon?

LOL! ;-)

Re: Great (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 4 months ago | (#46507337)

You can already buy home battery packs that use recycled lithium ion cells from laptops and cars. They are usually sold as part of a solar power system. In the event of a power failure your fridge will keep running and you will be able to keep your mobile phone charged and the radio on to hear emergency messages. After the Tohoku earthquake people have become more interested in that sort of thing.

Re: Great (3, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | about 4 months ago | (#46505299)

only when you can get an epic amount of them. Car batteries are not deep cycle, they are there for a single short heavy load. you can only extract 20% of their capacity from them before you damage the battery by sulfating the plates. so if you need 100 Ah of capacity, you need 5 100ah car batteries. and no CCA is not the number you want you want amp hours... In most off-grid applications the load pulls the batteries down over several hours, usually at night, and they then have to sit partially discharged (or still being drawn from) until the sun rises and the charging process begins. Deep cycle batteries are meant to do this. Automotive batteries are meant to have sudden, heavy, but short discharges (starting the car) and then be recharged with high current immediately.

So you would need 5-8 times the batteries and interconnects to use car batteries than using real deep cycle batteries.

Re: Great (2)

Calinous (985536) | about 4 months ago | (#46505833)

This is for Li-Ion or similar batteries used in hybrids (and maybe full-electric cars), not for the lead-acid (which usually are discarded when they have very little usable charge)

Re: Great (1)

skids (119237) | about 4 months ago | (#46506291)

Most hybrids still use NiMH, and their packs are small compared to an EV pack. Also since they are babied so much, there's a strong chance that by the time they are decommissioned the degradation they are experiencing will be more from old age of the entire unit than from charge-discharge cycles, and they are not built for deep cycle use. Likely they will be passed over for this purpose.

Re: Great (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46507047)

Car batteries are not deep cycle, they are there for a single short heavy load. you can only extract 20% of their capacity from them before you damage the battery by sulfating the plates.

So uh, mount a desulfator? At least one brand has been proven to work, the same kind the military settled on. But at least some of the cheap ones probably work too, since the concept is not so very complicated.

Re: Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46508823)

Desulfators require a battery to be offline for multiple weeks at a time...

Re: Great (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46509919)

Desulfators require a battery to be offline for multiple weeks at a time...

Who told you that? They're a liar. It only happens while the battery is charging, but what battery spends multiple weeks discharging?

Re: Great (1)

hankwang (413283) | about 4 months ago | (#46509461)

"you can only extract 20% of their capacity from them before you damage the battery by sulfating the plates."

You're confusing two issues, I think. Sulfation happens if a lead acid battery is kept in a (partially) discharged state for too long (weeks). That will happen with deep-cycle batteries as well.

The issue with starter batteries is that the plates are thin and tend to crumble during a deep discharge, when a large fraction of the lead plate is electrochemically converted.

Re: Great (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 months ago | (#46506569)

Car batteries are not "still viable" if they're used. They need to just be recycled; there's already very effective recycling programs for them which recover all the lead and manufacture new batteries from it.

Car batteries are useless after 18 months to 5 years or so, depending on the environment. In Phoenix, do not expect a car battery to last longer than 18 months. In colder places, they last longer, but still nowhere near 15 years. And when car starting batteries die, they usually die catastrophically; they won't hold any significant charge. Your car starts OK day after day, but then one day it doesn't, and only has enough power to power the basic accessories.

Luckily, TFA is apparently about Li-ion batteries, not lead-acid car batteries. Because reusing the latter would be absolutely stupid.

Re: Great (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46507107)

Car batteries are useless after 18 months to 5 years or so, depending on the environment. In Phoenix, do not expect a car battery to last longer than 18 months. In colder places, they last longer, but still nowhere near 15 years. And when car starting batteries die, they usually die catastrophically

Even many so-called "maintenance-free" batteries have removable caps. It's most likely in the cheapest batteries, such as from wal-mart. You check the cells, top them off with distilled water if necessary (or at least RO) and you can get acid in a packet to recharge them with if absolutely necessary after using a battery tester. I forgot to do this once and blew the lid right off a battery I was recharging, there was a loud pop and it showered my freezer with gack which I neutralized with a grip of baking soda.

As well, some old batteries can be desulfated, which takes weeks to months of sitting around on the desulfator and a trickle charge (to run the desulfator, mostly.) But you can't tell which will respond well. So you take away old batteries for free, and then you sell for scrap the ones which don't desulfate. The risk of explosion is low when trickle charging. Don't do it anywhere precious, though.

Re: Great (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 months ago | (#46507987)

With the cost of new batteries, I really wonder if it's worth it to bother with any of this stuff any more. You can get a new battery from Autozone now for $50-75 with a 3-year guarantee (if it fails in that time, they give you a replacement with a prorated discount). This worked out pretty well for me when I lived in Arizona, since batteries there never last more than 18 months.

Re: Great (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46508049)

With the cost of new batteries, I really wonder if it's worth it to bother with any of this stuff any more.

Well, not if you drive Japanese. You can get a battery for sixty bucks. But if you drive a big diesel pickup, then you need two $120+ batteries. Or if you drive euro, then you need one fancy $120 battery — both my 300SD and A8 take a battery of that description, even from Wally World.

Re: Great (1)

luther349 (645380) | about 4 months ago | (#46510241)

wrong starting battery's are crap for off-grid. the amp hrs are low and the plates thin they will quickly die under such usage..deep cycle battery's are different and widly used in off grid.

Re: Great (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#46511263)

wrong starting battery's are crap for off-grid. the amp hrs are low and the plates thin they will quickly die under such usage..deep cycle battery's are different and widly used in off grid.

There's nearly always going to be a better option than the one you have before you. Having electricity conveniently available from the grid is a widely accepted best-case scenario.

But if, during the zombie apocalypse, you happen to be nesting near a car lot instead of an upscale San Fran Neighborhood, [wired.com] maybe you can make do.

of course (2)

StripedCow (776465) | about 4 months ago | (#46504937)

Of course this seems attractive.
If only we had some numbers and an actual analysis here...

Re:of course (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 4 months ago | (#46504989)

I've been to presentations about these systems; I can't remember the actual figures but used cells from various sources compare pretty favourably to best-of-class grid storage systems in terms of price, although the energy and power density is obviously pretty terrible.

Re:of course (1)

skids (119237) | about 4 months ago | (#46506339)

How about the inherent discharge and internal resistance in cells this old? Combined with resource issues and more efficient Li chemistries than when the cell was built, I'm a bit skeptical that it won't be more advantagious to recycle them.

Electric car batteries (4, Insightful)

Donwulff (27374) | about 4 months ago | (#46504957)

If anyone remains confused after the summary as I was, just to clarify they're discussing electric car battery packs. Using them to power datacenters during peak eectricity demand, and charing them back up during low electricity demand would indeed be useful. I'm quite suspicious about their degradation expectations, however.
Being stationary installations well designed datacenters could often use more efficient and environmentally friendly options, like flywheels or thermal storage. There would perhaps be more demand and practical use for such battery packs as backup power during power outages, as those kind of emergency batteries will be required in any case.
Hopefully it is possible to compromise between these two, for example by using 75% of the battery capacity for shifting power-demand to off-peak hours, and reserving 25% for backup power in case there's power-outage before the packs have been re-charged.

Re:Electric car batteries (3, Insightful)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 4 months ago | (#46505309)

If anyone remains confused after the summary as I was, just to clarify they're discussing electric car battery packs. Using them to power datacenters during peak eectricity demand, and charing them back up during low electricity demand would indeed be useful. I'm quite suspicious about their degradation expectations, however.
Being stationary installations well designed datacenters could often use more efficient and environmentally friendly options, like flywheels or thermal storage. There would perhaps be more demand and practical use for such battery packs as backup power during power outages, as those kind of emergency batteries will be required in any case.
Hopefully it is possible to compromise between these two, for example by using 75% of the battery capacity for shifting power-demand to off-peak hours, and reserving 25% for backup power in case there's power-outage before the packs have been re-charged.

Everything you say is true, although you are forgetting a key point. The research is sponsored by Nissan who is looking at a way to monetize the old batteries. It's not in their best interest to promote other environmentally friendly options. Likewise, they can't just throw the old batteries in the landfill. Since it costs money to reclaim them legally, finding an alternative use pushes that cost on to somebody else (the spent batteries will be the data center's problem, not Nissan's).

Nissan isn't being eco-friendly here, they are just trying to minimize the financial cleanup cost associated with the technology they put in their cars. I'm sure the nuclear power industry would like to suggest low yield reactors for data centers using spent uranium, too.

Re:Electric car batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46506171)

I suspect that in 15 years time, used Prius batteries will be worth more than the original car.
The Chinese are eventually going to wise up and stop polluting their environment smelting 'rare earths' like the Lanthanium used in hybrid batteries.
The only thing 'rare' about these minerals is finding a government short-sighted or corrupt enough to allow them to be processed on the cheap.

Re:Electric car batteries (1)

kyrsjo (2420192) | about 4 months ago | (#46506443)

Why is recycling the batteries Nissan's problem? Recycling the lead-acid accumulator in a ICE car or the used engine oil isn't Ford's (etc.) problem or expese? Nissan doesn't own the batteries in sold cars.

Re:Electric car batteries (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 4 months ago | (#46509503)

Why is recycling the batteries Nissan's problem? Recycling the lead-acid accumulator in a ICE car or the used engine oil isn't Ford's (etc.) problem or expese? Nissan doesn't own the batteries in sold cars.

Doesn't Nissan retain ownership and you lease the battery pack from them for your Leaf?

Re:Electric car batteries (1)

kyrsjo (2420192) | about 4 months ago | (#46510777)

Apparently you can in some markets (but not all):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N... [wikipedia.org]
I don't know how common it is to actually do that, however.

Re:Electric car batteries (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about 4 months ago | (#46514697)

Assuming this works the same as other electric devices, once you buy a new battery the supplier is obligated by European law to accept and recycle the old battery.
That also means the old battery can not leave the EU (probably unless it is recycled far enough to be considered a usable resource, dunno the specifics though) to prevent environmental disasters in 3rd world countries.

In essence they would probably save a lot of money. Selling something they got for free (or at least cheaply).

Re:Electric car batteries (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46507021)

Nissan isn't being eco-friendly here,

Bullshit. Reuse is the most eco-friendly type of recycling. It requires the least energy expenditure. You want them to spend more energy recycling the batteries more often, you aren't being eco-friendly. The batteries will still get recycled when they're no longer useful for this alternate purpose.

Re:Electric car batteries (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 4 months ago | (#46509487)

Nissan isn't being eco-friendly here,

Bullshit. Reuse is the most eco-friendly type of recycling. It requires the least energy expenditure. You want them to spend more energy recycling the batteries more often, you aren't being eco-friendly. The batteries will still get recycled when they're no longer useful for this alternate purpose.

I should have said, Nissan isn't doing this to be eco-friendly as in that isn't their motivation. Economics is.

OTOH, one could argue that there is a very limited supply of Lithium and the reuse means they will need to mine more because of the demand for new batteries for new cars. That's not eco-freindly, when there are other resources for providing peak and backup power for data centers.

That's the problem with complicated problems, there just aren't simple solutions.

Re:Electric car batteries (1)

necro81 (917438) | about 4 months ago | (#46506335)

Being stationary installations well designed datacenters could often use more efficient and environmentally friendly options, like flywheels or thermal storage

Except that, to date, none of them do. Batteries are already used and understood in datacenters, so this would be a pretty easy to implement.

Re:Electric car batteries (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 4 months ago | (#46506459)

The big thing is, in a vehicle, a battery can be expected to deliver many kW all of a sudden, and absorb many kW suddenly as well. This is because moving a vehicle takes a lot of energy.

However, using it in more domestic circumstances places a far lower load on it - think about it - the battery may be called on to provide 20kW to start the car moving at a light. But powering a house, the load's rarely much above a kW, maybe 2kW tops.

Older batteries lose their ability to provide and absorb large amounts of energy quickly, but household or even datacenter use loads tend to be far more stable and far lower, so some extra life can be had out of the battery before it needs to be recycled.

As the battery ages, its capacity goes down and its internal resistance goes up, both of which are detrimental to EV use. But even a higher internal resistance is not much of an issue if you don't draw huge currents from it thus wasting most of the energy as heat.

Re:Electric car batteries (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 4 months ago | (#46507415)

Being stationary installations well designed datacenters could often use more efficient and environmentally friendly options, like flywheels or thermal storage.

Recycling used batteries that would otherwise be discarded or broken down is pretty environmentally friendly. Also flywheels can be very dangerous are not simply plug-in devices that ordinary data-centre techs can order and install. Most datacentres are trying hard to get rid of heat rather than keep a large amount of it around.

Why old? (1)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | about 4 months ago | (#46504969)

Can someone explain why old car batteries are better suited than new ones? Is it perhaps that old car batteries just cannot produce the huge peak required to start the engine but that energy storage and extraction works fine at lower currents? And that therefore old batteries perform adequately at lower cost?

Re:Why old? (5, Funny)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#46505019)

Can someone explain why old car batteries are better suited than new ones?

Yes.

Is it perhaps that old car batteries just cannot produce the huge peak required to start the engine but that energy storage and extraction works fine at lower currents? And that therefore old batteries perform adequately at lower cost?

You.

Re:Why old? (1)

luther349 (645380) | about 4 months ago | (#46510257)

wrong starting battery's have very thin plates and are not useful for anything else they will quickly become useless.i think there talking about battery's from hybreds.

Re:Why old? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46505041)

Is it perhaps that old car batteries just cannot produce the huge peak required to start the engine but that energy storage and extraction works fine at lower currents? And that therefore old batteries perform adequately at lower cost?

Bingo!

A data center doesn't have the same requirements. It doesn't need reasonable capacity at cold temperatures. It doesn't have the same requirement of energy density. It doesn't need short charging times. (Yes, I'm sure everyone can come up with a gazillion unlikely scenarios that never happen where the data center for some reason needs much better batteries but in the real reality it isn't necessary.)

Re:Why old? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46505219)

They're talking about used traction batteries from EVs.
After 10-15 years those packs are likely down to 60% or so nominal capacity and really struggling to supply the 60kW+ peaks the motor requires.
Yet those same packs are probably good for another decade or so at 10kW peak output, so using them up in a stationary installation until they're completely shot before recycling seems like a sensible idea.

Re:Why old? (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 4 months ago | (#46505331)

Can someone explain why old car batteries are better suited than new ones? Is it perhaps that old car batteries just cannot produce the huge peak required to start the engine but that energy storage and extraction works fine at lower currents? And that therefore old batteries perform adequately at lower cost?

Because it costs a lot of money to dispose properly of a Li-ion battery and this way, Nissan doesn't have to bear that cost. The issue with leaving the batteries in the cars is not the energy required to start the engine/electrical motor, but the range the battery pack can sustain the engine. If new batteries get you 60 miles and old batteries get you 30 miles, your electric vehicle is less useful and/or needs recharged more often.

Re:Why old? (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 4 months ago | (#46505917)

Actually it does not cost a lot of money to dispose properly of a li-ion battery. Unlike a lead acid battery, li-ion are non-toxic and can be dumped in a landfill. But of course since there is value in getting additional service from them, and then recycling them, why not?

Re:Why old? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 4 months ago | (#46506187)

Actually it does not cost a lot of money to dispose properly of a li-ion battery. Unlike a lead acid battery, li-ion are non-toxic and can be dumped in a landfill. But of course since there is value in getting additional service from them, and then recycling them, why not?

That is true for consumer lithium ion batteries (like AA,etc.) The battery packs in automobiles are somewhat different, although they are still classified as lithium ion.

Re:Why old? (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about 4 months ago | (#46514719)

AA batteries are normally not Li-Ion. They are NiMH.
Li-Ion needs far more complex controllers in both charging and discharging. Most AA powered systems do not have the over-discharge protection that a Li-Ion battery requires in order to stay functional. In case of a short a Li-Ion battery may explode, thus it requires protection against overcurrent draw. Most battery powered devices don't even have a fuse.

Despite their difficulties Li-Ion batteries are widely used. This is because they can hold far more energy than NiMH batteries. Usually they are used in specific purpose batteries, non standard shapes.

Re:Why old? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 4 months ago | (#46515205)

You are correct, I should have said consumer grade batteries, as those used in cameras, recorders, phones, etc. Many of these do not have the protections in the battery pack, like automobile versions do and instead rely on a smart controller in the device itself for that functionality. That's probably why they don't want you checking Lithium Ion camera batteries in your luggage on a plane and instead must put them in your carry on.

Re:Why old? (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about 4 months ago | (#46531873)

That may also be for insurance reasons. Li-Ion batteries don't handle cold well. The carry-on stays warm, the normal luggage doesn't.
Although with TSA you never know. "It could theoretically be used as a bomb if it is badly designed but we can't ban it. I know, lets let them take it as carry-on instead of luggage. That'll solve this"

BTW: it seems most li-ion batteries are badly designed. The controller should be in the battery pack, not the device. If it is in a sealed battery pack nothing can go wrong. If it is in the device moisture can short circuit it and cause it to explode. Since most controllers see only one battery pack these days the price difference is negligible.

Re:Why old? (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about 4 months ago | (#46514705)

This is about Europe. We have almost stopped making landfills in most countries.

more green shit draining cash (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46505031)

just build nuclear, instead of useless windmills.

Re:more green shit draining cash (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46505153)

just build nuclear, instead of useless windmills.

A more cost effective solution, to be sure. Also, don't forget to replace your expensive as #3|| solar panels.

Re:more green shit draining cash (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 4 months ago | (#46505359)

just build nuclear, instead of useless windmills.

Or put the windmill/turbine at the top of the cooling towers from current reactors. Before the end of steam locomotives, the largest ones used the steam from the main cylinders, which still had a lot of energy, to work a second set of cylinders. There's no reason why the rising steam from a cooling tower couldn't turn a number of turbines producing additional electrical power,

Re:more green shit draining cash (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#46505693)

How stupid. Nuclear needs storage if it is to follow demand. Wind mills are cheaper than nuclear by a lot, so why urge the more expensive scenario?

Re:more green shit draining cash (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46507721)

Bullshit, it's the windmill's/solar that need storage, Because windmills/solar fluctuate wildly and planting more of that shit will destabilize the elec Grid above a certain %. Green idiots just don't understand the engineering at large scales.

Should guess from your username, you just want green shit cash drained into your pocket.

Re:more green shit draining cash (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#46507961)

How stupid again.

Re:more green shit draining cash (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#46509861)

Because windmills/solar fluctuate wildly and planting more of that shit will destabilize the elec Grid above a certain %. Green idiots just don't understand the engineering at large scales.

Actually, they do understand that at truly large scales, the solar and wind production over large areas reduces the fluctuations. That's been known for quite some time, just as it's been known that their actual production can be predicted and anticipated by simply predicting weather patterns.

Why at datacenters? (2)

Racemaniac (1099281) | about 4 months ago | (#46505045)

It's not that there's no logic in that. But the purpose is just generally to soak up power when there is little demand, and to release it when there's high demand. Why not just make this separate facilities just for this function, and do it for the entire grid? why the focus on data centers?

Or is it just to try and shift the maintenance of this likely mess to someone else? It sounds like a nice idea, but will probably require some effort, and some annoying surprises from time to time as the batteries will wear out, and will require quite some management.

Re:Why at datacenters? (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 4 months ago | (#46505137)

Because they already are buying new every 5-7 years. Big data-centers use big UPS plants and those require big battery farms.

Re:Why at datacenters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46505265)

It's not that there's no logic in that. But the purpose is just generally to soak up power when there is little demand, and to release it when there's high demand. Why not just make this separate facilities just for this function, and do it for the entire grid? why the focus on data centers?

Or is it just to try and shift the maintenance of this likely mess to someone else? It sounds like a nice idea, but will probably require some effort, and some annoying surprises from time to time as the batteries will wear out, and will require quite some management.

I believe that some of those "annoying" things will be related to the loss of capacity at unexpected times and woeful efficiency of converting line voltage into DC. There might even be some catastrophic battery pack failures from battery packs of dubious history, capacity and manufacturing quality including explosions and subsequent fires.

But, the biggest problem for your idea is the inefficiency of converting from AC to DC to charge up the batteries added to the inefficiency of the chemical reactions inside the batteries when storing and releasing energy added to the inefficiency of taking the DC and converting it back into AC, especially on an industrial scale.

The beauty of doing this in a data center is that you might be able to skip the last DC -> AC conversion loss because most switching power supplies really don't care if their input is AC or DC. Further, if you know the input will be DC, you can make the switcher a bit cheaper and more efficient by leaving out the input rectifier components. You just drive the thing with 200-300V DC and it will work great, which is similar voltage ranges that old electric/hybrid car batteries work at.

Re:Why at datacenters? (1)

Goedendag (2618275) | about 4 months ago | (#46507225)

"most switching power supplies really don't care if their input is AC or DC" They do care if they have Power Factor Correction.

Re:Why at datacenters? (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 4 months ago | (#46505289)

TFA does hint at broader application, such as Nissan's "Leaf 2 Home" program which basically puts a Leaf battery in your house, making it "islandable" from the grid at need.

There's been a LOT of progress on electric storage in the last few years, and several new products are coming down the pipeline in the not-too-distant future. Here's a quick list off the top of my head...

- Ambri (formerly Liquid Metal Battery Corp.) is setting up production facilities now, and expects to have industrial prototypes on the market later this year. Watch Don Sadoway's TED Talk [youtube.com] for an explanation of how it works.

- Lightsail is doing a compressed-air system that incorporates a sort of "water carburetor" to capture the heat of compression (during "charging") and re-inject it later (during "discharge"). This solves a major hurdle for compressed air solutions -- loss of energy to heat -- making it much more competitive with other options.

- Aquion does (IIRC) sodium-ion batteries which are bulkier than most others, but very cheap to produce and maintain (as well as having no environmentally hazardous materials).

There's a ton of other stuff going on... flywheels, super-capacitors, etc... many of which are already available. Storage is the killer app that will enable the "next-gen" electrical grid, and a lot of VC money has been going into R&D on this, the fruits of which are just starting to get ripe.

MIT sponsored a panel discussion [youtube.com] on this a couple of years ago which gets into the nitty-gritty of grid integration with established "incumbents", FERC regulations, disruptive startups, etc.. It's a tad out of date now, but still worth the time.

Do you realize that most batteries are recycled? (3, Insightful)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about 4 months ago | (#46505047)

The silliest thing about this press release is that it seems to ignore the fact that most car batteries (and certainly almost all large battery packs) are recycled and scrubbed so their components can be reused in new batteries.

Re:Do you realize that most batteries are recycled (2)

careysub (976506) | about 4 months ago | (#46505117)

The silliest thing about this press release is that it seems to ignore the fact that most car batteries (and certainly almost all large battery packs) are recycled and scrubbed so their components can be reused in new batteries.

And this proposal prevents that eventual fate how?

Getting more use of the batteries, as batteries, before recycling them is a much more efficient use of resources, and the money invested in those batteries.

Sure, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46511889)

I find it difficult to image most data centre operators willingly powering their system with used batteries:

1). They are old and their charge capacities will be all over the place;
2). This means that a very robust detection and swap-out program will be needed;
3). They will be dirty. It doesn't look good, it can prevent good connections and cleaning them will probably be required;
4). Batteries are only the UPS side of power protection. Generator power is typically required for outages beyond an hour or so;
5). If you don't systematically select deep-cycle batteries, then your DIY UPS isn't properly designed. System performance will suffer.

All in all, this smacks of the free-cycling movement. It's laudible in principle but it won't appeal to most data centres. Too much work and not enough payoff for the operator.

Re:Do you realize that most batteries are recycled (1)

putaro (235078) | about 4 months ago | (#46505121)

That and the fact that each car model has a different type of battery pack with different geometry and capacity. Sounds like more trouble than it is worth.

Re:Do you realize that most batteries are recycled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46505133)

The silliest thing about this press release is that it seems to ignore the fact that most car batteries (and certainly almost all large battery packs) are recycled and scrubbed so their components can be reused in new batteries.

Isn't the idea here that re-using a battery pack for a different purpose for a while afterwards, before having to recycle the components, would be an overall more efficient use of resources?

Re:Do you realize that most batteries are recycled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46505327)

The silliest thing about this press release is that it seems to ignore the fact that most car batteries (and certainly almost all large battery packs) are recycled and scrubbed so their components can be reused in new batteries.

I don't think that they are discounting this recycling process, only suggesting that it be delayed. This will keep these batteries in useful service longer and it is almost ALWAYS more efficient to use what has been previously manufactured over recycling. But in the end, this might actually lead to MORE recycling because these batteries will have more than just scrap value so they won't languish in scrap yards but be collected quickly to be used in data centers. Data Centers will then fully utilize them and because they will have a LOT of batteries to get rid of, will be more likely to get them to recycling processors quickly.

Re:Do you realize that most batteries are recycled (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 4 months ago | (#46505373)

The silliest thing about this press release is that it seems to ignore the fact that most car batteries (and certainly almost all large battery packs) are recycled and scrubbed so their components can be reused in new batteries.

That's the point. That process is expensive. If Nissan can push it on to somebody else, like the data centers who end up purchasing the battery packs, then they save a shit load of money in not having to clean the battery packs (Li-ion battery packs can't just be thrown into a landfill).

Re:Do you realize that most batteries are recycled (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 4 months ago | (#46505437)

Li battery recycling is horribly inefficient right now; it's actually more resource-efficient to take cells that aren't good enough for cars any more (which have really, really high performance requirements) and use them in storage (which doesn't have such high requirements), because that way you're not producing more hard-to-rcycle cells.

Seems kind of short-sighted (1)

swb (14022) | about 4 months ago | (#46505855)

I would expect that by the time there's any significant number of used electric car batteries there will also be a large demand for electric car batteries.

I'd wager that this increased demand will lead to new refurbishment techniques that make them more economically viable to re-use in electric cars or new designs that eliminate the "lightly used' category of battery from even existing.

Re:Seems kind of short-sighted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46512709)

I would expect that by the time there's any significant number of used electric car batteries there will also be a large demand for electric car batteries.

Yea, and at that point, they'll have a huge stockpile of degraded batteries conveniently stored in bulk in the battery closets of EU datacenters. The more use you can get out of them before recycling is cost effective, the better.

Tell me how piling them up in a warehouse is supposed to be better than piling them up in datacenter battery closets where they can provide some utility while they await recycling?

I'd wager that this increased demand will lead to new refurbishment techniques that make them more economically viable to re-use in electric cars or new designs that eliminate the "lightly used' category of battery from even existing.

Probably, but I'd wager that in a few years MgIon batteries will be on the market with >2x capacity/weight than LiIon.
  At that time, we can stop putting used batteries into datacenter UPSs, and find another option for datacenters.

Datacenter tech turns over pretty fast. We build servers, knowing full well that in 2-3 years, those servers will be so slow and inefficient that it's a liability to power them on and they will be scrapped. Power distribution and cooling doesn't turn over quite that fast, but since these batteries will continue to degrade as they are used as UPS, at some future point they will be pulled out and replaced, so the batteries still enter the recycling chain.

It's not short-sighted when there is a payoff today, and reverting your decision is painless and low-cost should the economics change in the future.

So they want a large scale UPS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46505227)

Perhaps it's cheaper than current solutions.

But if they want to help smooth out the power grid they should place the batteries where the variation that needs to bee smoothed out is generated, at the wind and solar farms.

Re:So they want a large scale UPS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46505473)

Um.. No..

What causes the problem is efficiency. Converting from AC to DC or going from DC to AC is generally not very efficient. Then pushing power into a battery and removing it later is even more inefficient. Doing any of this on an industrial scale makes the efficiency of the system extremely important. With that in mind, we need to eliminate as many steps and conversions as we can to keep efficiency as high as possible. Further, power transmission is more efficient when using AC. (Which is why Westinghouse's AC won out over Edison's DC system, even though Edison had a better marketing campaign and name recondition.)

So, because batteries are DC devices, you need to use them where you can use DC to avoid the conversion loss. Data Centers can utilize DC directly, which means that you would want to locate them at the data center.

Re:So they want a large scale UPS? (1)

pla (258480) | about 4 months ago | (#46506297)

So, because batteries are DC devices, you need to use them where you can use DC to avoid the conversion loss. Data Centers can utilize DC directly, which means that you would want to locate them at the data center.

You realize, of course, that solar panels produce DC?

You make a valid point that, as far as treating these as point-of-use devices, datacenters make a lot more sense than a typical pure-AC home installation. But you can't use that argument against buffering a variable DC supply, which works just as well (if not better, since our existing obsolete-and-decaying grid deals a lot better with variable large consumers than variable large producers).

Seems overly optimistic. (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about 4 months ago | (#46505419)

Electric cars still have a tiny share of Europe’s car market, but each one holds a battery that can deliver 24kWh of energy. At the end of its life, that battery could be added to a big stack at a data centre, to provide back-up and also power that could smooth the peaks of demand, reducing the data centre’s load on the electric grid.

Van der Meer reckons an electric car will have a lifetime of around 14 years, after which time the battery’s performance will have degraded, but it will still hold around 18kWh

So they reckon EV users will replace their battery packs when they are down to 3/4 of original capacity, I'd expect the kind of people who drive 14 year old cars (probablly not the original owner in most cases) to be more frugal than that.

Re:Seems overly optimistic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46512921)

Battery performance degrades in two different ways: capacity and ESR. If a battery develops high ESR, you get very little effective capacity when drawing current out at it's design current, but as your current goes down, you get closer to the capacity. In fact all batteries have some ESR, meaning their maximum capacity is determined by the intersection of the capacity-load curve, and the self-discharge rate. If a battery had no self-discharge, then it's maximum capacity would be with no load current, but that is both non-physical and not integrable[sic?]. If a battery had 0 ESR, its effective capacity would be independent of load, but that is also non-physical. Electric car batteries are operated far from their optimal discharge rate, as they have the conflicting goal of generating large power output with low weight, and as with all batteries, the ESR increases over time shifting the optimal discharge current towards lower loading.

So a battery might degrade to an ESR, such that it's effective capacity in an electric car is only 10% of it's design capacity, but at lower current loads can supply 75% of it's design capacity. I doubt even frugal owners are going to want to drive an electric car with only 10% capacity, and operating at a lower current regime basically means driving round at 5mph everywhere, which is hardly an option either.

Let Frank Gehry design the boxes... (1)

jpellino (202698) | about 4 months ago | (#46505519)

... and I'm all for it. Slap another Bilbao Guggenheim-ish case on a few hundred thousand batteries and you solve two problems. You house the batteries in something better looking than a warehouse, and you give even the most culture-phobic something to look at and say "Golly, that's pretty and practical!"

Scale (2)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#46505641)

Electrification of transportation in the US can provide enough storage in used car batteries to provide half a day's worth of our average electricity consumption. http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/20... [blogspot.com] Consequently, the concept of baseload generation becomes antiquated and even spinning reserve may be doomed.

Why do they want a large-scale UPS? (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 4 months ago | (#46505861)

Countless studies have demonstrated a vastly superior and cheaper method: a large-scale FedEx.

in these days of Li-ion explosive awareness... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46506259)

yeah, cause two-three hundred lead-acid batteries charging wont be gassing, nu-uh they wont...

Transmission (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 4 months ago | (#46506985)

As a renewable energy solution, storage of this type seems like it is required, but, in fact, transmission can get us to 80% renewable without a big investment in storage. Thus, these batteries seem like what would be needed to get 100%. http://www.rmi.org/reinventing... [rmi.org]

Interesting idea (1)

russotto (537200) | about 4 months ago | (#46507907)

but it seems like a major operational problem, dealing with a whole bunch of batteries of different form factors and conditions and trying to harness them for anything reliable. Particularly lithium-ion batteries, which have the annoying habit of venting with flame when overcharged or overdischarged.

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