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New life ahead for used EV batteries

Valentin Muenzel and Daniel Crowley
Valentin Muenzel and Daniel Crowley

A Melbourne start-up that has developed a way to repurpose used lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles for domestic solar storage has received backing from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Relectrify has developed battery control technology that reduces the cost of repurposing EV batteries and also boosts second life battery performance and lifetime.

ARENA has contributed a $750,000 early stage equity investment to the company’s $1.5 million Pre-A equity raising from the Clean Energy Innovation Fund, a partnership between the agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

The balance of the equity raising came from private investors John Clifford and Peter Los.

Mr Clifford joined the company during its seed investment round as non-executive director and investor and has subsequently been appointed company chairman.

Relectrify’s technological breakthrough comprises both electronics hardware and battery optimisation software. It also creates a way to repurpose batteries that are no longer suitable for EV use due to deterioration of their storage capacity, making them unable to deliver the required range and acceleration.

However, these batteries still have up to 80 per cent of their storage capacity.

The equity investment funds will enable the company to expand its production and commercial trials on second life batteries.

ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said the technology would reduce waste and make domestic storage more affordable.

“We’re excited to see how the technology develops and is adopted not only by Australian consumers, but consumers around the world,” he said.

CEFC chief executive Ian Learmouth said the technology could be adopted across the whole economy and have a significant impact on how Australians use energy.

“Although home batteries are only a tiny part of our energy storage today, industry experts are saying they could be capable of storing around 15 gigawatt-hours by 2035,” he said.

“And while electric vehicles currently make up only around 0.2 per cent of vehicle sales in Australia, by 2035 they are expected to represent just over one quarter. That translates to an increasing supply of lithium-ion batteries that are no longer useful in cars, but are still incredibly capable for other applications.”

Mr Learmouth said technologies like Relectify’s were important in terms of positioning Australia to take advantage of storage solutions that could assist in the energy system’s transition.

At the same time, it is also important to reduce the environmental impact of used equipment, he said.

The company was founded by Daniel Crowley and Valentin Muenzel in 2015.

Mr Muenzel, now chief executive of the company, said used EV batteries could be repurposed for a range of applications, including into 12-volt batteries, domestic solar storage and grid-scale storage.

“Batteries are becoming a fundamental building block of the new energy industry and seeing significant uptake across households, businesses and the power grid,” he said.

“And this is just the beginning. There is an immense need for affordable and capable storage across almost all parts of our lives now and in the future.”

The company has been making a stir internationally with its innovation, including being invited to present at the 2016 Falling Walls Conference in Germany and at a Second Life for EV Battery industry panel recently held in Hong Kong.

It was also last year awarded a $250,000 grant in partnership with inverter firm Selectronic Australia through the Victorian government’s New Energy Jobs Fund.

The two tech firms are working on developing communications protocols that enable “plug-and-play” communication between intelligent inverters, batteries and weather forecasting apps.

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