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Old Electric-Car Batteries Put Into Service For Home Energy Storage

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the flywheels-are-too-annoying dept.

Hardware Hacking 198

Hugh Pickens writes "Josie Garthwaite writes that old electric car batteries degraded below acceptable performance levels for autos still have enough life to serve the grid for at least ten years with a prototype announced by GM and ABB lashing five Chevy Volt battery packs together in an array with a capacity of 10 kilowatt-hours — enough to provide electricity for three to five average houses for two hours. 'In a car, you want immediate power, and you want a lot of it,' says Alexandra Goodson. 'We're discharging for two hours instead of immediately accelerating. It's not nearly as demanding on the system.'" (Read on, below.)Pickens continues: "Deployed on the grid, community energy storage devices could help utilities integrate highly variable renewables like solar and wind into the power supply, while absorbing spikes in demand from electric-car charging. 'Wind, it's a nightmare for grid operators to manage,' says Britta Gross, director of global energy systems and infrastructure commercialization for GM. 'It's up, down, it doesn't blow for three days. It's very labor-intensive to manage.' The batteries would allow for storage of power during inexpensive periods for use during expensive peak demand, or help make up for gaps in solar, wind or other renewable power generation. One final advantage of re-using electric car batteries is that the battery — the most expensive part of an electric car — remains an asset beyond its useful life in the vehicle. 'If there is a market in stationary power for spent batteries, consumers could recognize this as an increased resale value at end of life, however small,' says Kevin See."

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198 comments

Good Idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011591)

But certain people can just look at those heavy batteries and make them fly around the room.

If it's too puny for a car... (0)

sshir (623215) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011601)

2 hours?! For us, east coasters, 2 hours don't make any difference... for others will be too... soon enough...

And you can't use it in an off-grid solar setup - there aren't many charge/discharge cycles left...

Re:If it's too puny for a car... (4, Insightful)

feedayeen (1322473) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011651)

2 hours?! For us, east coasters, 2 hours don't make any difference... for others will be too... soon enough...

And you can't use it in an off-grid solar setup - there aren't many charge/discharge cycles left...

It's difficult to read your post and understand what you are trying to convey; but I am assuming that you're talking about Hurricane Sandy based on your reference to the East Coast. This is not for that.

Re:If it's too puny for a car... (1)

alphatel (1450715) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011659)

Not to mention they may burst into flames when flooded with water [torquenews.com] , not too comforting if you are preparing for the next storm surge.

Re:If it's too puny for a car... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011707)

Not to mention they may burst into flames when flooded with water [torquenews.com] , not too comforting if you are preparing for the next storm surge.

but the water will put out the flames right? see, self-correcting!

Re:If it's too puny for a car... (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011931)

heh... tell that to the firemen who could do nothing but stand in the pouring rain and watch entire blocks burn down...

Re:If it's too puny for a car... (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012049)

Ummm... try testing that theory by tossing a chunk of elemental sodium or calcium into a bucket of water (or swimming pool, or jacuzzi). There are plenty of videos on Youtube illustrating the outcome...

Re:If it's too puny for a car... (5, Insightful)

Smidge204 (605297) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011751)

I'm sure all those houses that burned down in Queens had piles of batteries laying around, that's what caused the fire. I'm also sure it's impossible for a normal car without a HV battery pack to catch fire for any reason, including flooding.

Meanwhile, two dozen all-electric Nissan LEAFs failed to catch fire after the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan [torquenews.com] .

(Maybe the Fisker Karma is just a piece of shit. Don't blame the HV battery.)
=Smidge=

Re:If it's too puny for a car... (1, Interesting)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012421)

I'm going to get modded down again.

Fires during floods are caused by people with fire insurance, no flood insurance and lighters.

Simple fact. Modding me down doesn't change it.

Re:If it's too puny for a car... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011745)

2 hours for up to 5 houses. I'm on the low side of power usage but i use about 6 kwh (family could easily use 10kwh alot use 20 or more), if you only used the bare essentials it could last quite a while. Depending on the price (which would be heavily subsidized by the eco people in their electric cars) it could still be feasible.

Re:If it's too puny for a car... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42012001)

kwh usage per day.

Questions! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011607)

Chevy Volt batteries are failing already? It seems like the Volt has only been on the market for a year.

How does he know that they will last for another ten? It's early days yet and the fact that they have failed for the Volt seems like premature failure to me.

Re:Questions! (3, Informative)

TheGavster (774657) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012529)

This is a concept study, sponsored in part by GM. The batteries they have are the ones for a Volt, so those are the ones that were used. I'm also going to go out on a limb and guess that they don't have a warehouse full of these setups ready to sell at Home Depot, but that they had some batteries that were used during development of the Volt and have a lot more miles on them then the average consumer-owned car.

This does show what a technical challenge electric car batteries are: these were charged and discharged beyond the point where they could deliver useful, sustained power to a car, but are still more than capable of handling the lower current, long duration needs of a house. If the nuclear industry could figure out a cool application of their discarded (but still quite energetic) fuel, maybe we could get off of coal ...

This will boost the electric car market (4, Interesting)

i (8254) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011623)

If you can reuse parts of your electric car for your household for economic benefit (and maybe as backup for blackouts) it makes these high priced cars more valuable and therefore expand the potential market.

This will also potenially create a battery market for house backup for blackouts or accomodation to possible day to night price difference.
Which also will expand the battery market. All this will lower the production unit costs for batteries.
And here the cycle begin again... :)
 

Re:This will boost the electric car market (4, Interesting)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012577)

They are already using EVs as whole-house backup power supplies in Japan. A Nissan Leaf, a relatively small car, has a 24KWh battery pack. You can run a typical Japanese house for a few days from that in the event of an emergency.

Doesn't add up (-1)

jcrb (187104) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011637)

Lets see, my 10kW generator doesn't even power my whole house, and a 10kWH battery set is supposed to provide electricity to 5 houses for 2 hours, that would be 1kW a house. Somehow this seems to be a new use of the word "provide" I was not previously aware of.

Re:Doesn't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011655)

Anyone who needs emergency power isn't going to be using the inductive cooktop, air conditioner and three oil column heaters. This keeps the fridge, tv, radio, and microwave going.

Re:Doesn't add up (4, Informative)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011801)

Anyone who needs emergency power isn't going to be using the inductive cooktop, air conditioner and three oil column heaters. This keeps the fridge, tv, radio, and microwave going.

In addition, if you are wanting to go solar or off-grid, then power supply is only half of the equation. The other half being how to reduce consumption. For example getting a LED based TV instead of a plasma based one or putting stuff into standby (or off) when not bring used.

As for 10KW per hour, that is huge. What is consuming that much? An industrial level hair dryer?

Re:Doesn't add up (4, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012105)

Geez. My house never hits 10 kW peak. Period. I suppose if my wife were baking something, we had the dryer on AND I was running the welder we might hit that.

I use a 2.5 kW generator for the house - works great except the electric stove and the dryer. If we are on generator because of a power outage, we can avoid baking, use the propane grill and just air dry clothes. That leaves the computers, lights and miscellaneous bits of civilization to work just spiffily.

I can't even imagine what he uses 10 kW for....

Re:Doesn't add up (5, Informative)

SJ (13711) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011669)

Your house uses more than 10kw? I really have to ask, what the heck are you doing??

I have a modest 4x2 house, with a stay-at-home wife and 2 kids. Big screen TV, and all the other creature comforts and I wouldn't even come close to use 10Kw.

In this instance I have to say 'you're doing it wrong'.

Re:Doesn't add up (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011731)

An 800W microwave, 3kW kettle for heating water, 3kW washing machine, and 3kW electric oven leaves you just enough change from 10kW for your big flatscreen TV. At peak time I would also have the tumble dryer running, my 500W PC running, lighting (only 240W, bargain!).

In total, it's about 14kW at peak usage (thank heavens the heating is natural gas powered, as are the oven jobs and hot water). Heaven forbid if anyone tried to use a hairdryer at that time as well...

Re:Doesn't add up (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011883)

cuz you totally keep the kettle running 24/7

Re:Doesn't add up (0)

Svartalf (2997) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011977)

It's called an electric water heater. You know, that hot water thingy that allows you to have hot baths and the like... But then, you posted this as an anon coward on /. I shouldn't expect better.

Re:Doesn't add up (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42012025)

Dude, you need new water heater if it runs 24/7.

Re:Doesn't add up (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012371)

No he probably does not keep the kettle on 24/7. Maybe you missed the multiple uses of the work "peak" in the grandparent. Still I don't think its the least bit unusual, especially for those that don't live alone to have that or a similar combination of appliances running all at the same time. I often have the washer dryer running while I am cooking dinner, and have the TV on so I can see the news. So swap out your tea kettle for electric stove top and there you are. Now consider the things you don't really control like when the fridge compressor cycles on or even if you have gas fired hear the blower motor starts up, and you might have bigger peak loads than you at first expect.

Is it unreasonable that when on emergency power you might modify your behavior and say wait to do the laundry; sure but I think his point was that under "normal" conditions a single person might at any given time draw as much as 10kW. So estimating that much is a suitable backup power source for 5 homes; is highly optimistic at best.

Re:Doesn't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011889)

What kind of kettles and washing machines do you have that consume 3,000 watts?!

Re:Doesn't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011989)

Hot water heater. An electric Dryer will consume 3kW drying your clothes because of the heating element in the thing.

It amazes me to utterly no end how FRIGGIN' CLUELESS some people seem to be on this discussion.

Re:Doesn't add up (4, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012119)

Yo' space ....

I monitor my power consumption using a Current Cost system (don't necessarily suggest this device, it's a bit wonky, but it works). I get 6 kW running the oven AND the dryer. The hot water heater fires a few minutes every hour during the day. I cannot see a sustained 10 kW load. Ever.

YMMV but if you're really pulling down that many amps, either you have a bunch of very, very clean people in your household.

Or you're doing it wrong.

Re:Doesn't add up (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012425)

Or your house has a fresh, skunky smell all the time and you have no visible means of support.

Re:Doesn't add up (2)

MtHuurne (602934) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012027)

2000 W is quite typical for an electric kettle, so 3 kW is not crazy. Of course the kettle runs for only a few minutes, so while you can certainly get over 10 kW peak usage, 10 kW sustained is still enormous.

Re:Doesn't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011921)

No refrigerator ?
That heater has an electric pump or fan to distribute the heat...
And don't forget those vampire devices add up when you are in a crunch.

Re:Doesn't add up (5, Insightful)

drgould (24404) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012597)

Here's a wild idea I'll just throw out.

Don't use the microwave, kettle, washing machine, electric oven, flatscreen TV, tumble dryer and PC at the same time when you're running your generator.

Crazy I know, but it might work.

Location, Location, Location. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011755)

Your house uses more than 10kw? I really have to ask, what the heck are you doing??

I have a modest 4x2 house, with a stay-at-home wife and 2 kids. Big screen TV, and all the other creature comforts and I wouldn't even come close to use 10Kw.

In this instance I have to say 'you're doing it wrong'.

Put your house at around sea level below the 30th parallel in a sunny area and watch what happens to your electric bill.

Also 4x2 house doesn't mean much. I see Europeans referring to their 4x2(?) less than 93 sq meter(1000 sq feet) inner core apartments as houses. That's a far cry from places like Texas where a 4x2 standalone house could be anywhere from 2200 to 4000 sq feet(372 sq meters) and two stories tall.

A guarantee that the latter home will have peak loads of around 18kWh or more.

Re:Doesn't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011895)

Your hot water tank easily uses more than that when it's heating. Are you an idiot?

Re:Doesn't add up (0)

Svartalf (2997) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011967)

10 kW...

Let's see...

Microwave: 1kW
Stove/Oven: 3kW
Regular Water Heater: 5kW
On Demand Water Heater: 19-24kW
HVAC: 15kW

In short, there's quite a few things that use QUITE a bit of power and would deplete this quickly. As a simple backup like a UPS for short-term emergencies, this stuff would work "okay" for 2-3 houses and well for ONE house, but it's not the panacea they're painting it out to be. (Nor, are you knowledgeable about stuff like this as you think you are...)

Re:Doesn't add up (2)

guruevi (827432) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012067)

Your on-demand water heater uses ~100A (@220V which is line power in the US) continuously? That is my entire house's electricity supply (100A breaker) and would cost me about $3-4/hour, that is half a minimum wage in the US.

Re:Doesn't add up (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42012097)

You seem to be under the impression that this is meant to be a complete replacement for your every need.

You're the one who is consumed with an ignorant demand that this idea doesn't fill your every possible need as you use everything in your house at once.

How self-entitled do you feel you are?

This is about serving in emergencies, and is no more meant to be a complete replacement than a flashlight is meant to provide the light of the sun.

Re:Doesn't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42012041)

It depends on what is doing your heating. If you have electric heat, then 10kW is reasonable. Fortunately, I have natural gas boiler, hot water heater, stove, and clothes dryer.

Re:Doesn't add up (3, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012451)

Your house uses more than 10kw? I really have to ask, what the heck are you doing??

Grow lamps, dude!

Re:Doesn't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42012461)

"Your house uses more than 10kw? I really have to ask, what the heck are you doing??"

Marajuana grow operation?

Re:Doesn't add up (2)

dimeglio (456244) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011681)

If you turn off heating and air conditioning you should be using a lot less than 10kW.

Re:Doesn't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011689)

That'll work as long as power outages occur only during California weather conditions.

Re:Doesn't add up (3, Insightful)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011951)

That'll work as long as power outages occur only during California weather conditions

Living without AC is unpleasant but doable. Many millions did it in the 19th and first half of the 20th century. Heat is more important, but in emergency situations you really only need to heat one or two rooms, not your whole house. In the 1998 ice storm, when many Quebecers were without power for many days, people moved into their living room and slept around the fireplace.

Re:Doesn't add up (1)

PlusFiveTroll (754249) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012517)

Many millions did it in the 19th and first half of the 20th century

I'll up you one on that. Pretty much everybody did before the first half of the 20th century, everywhere.

Dying in the desert heat when the power goes out is the price we pay for not living like desert people. Freezing to death when the power goes out is the price an idiot pays when they don't have good shelter, plenty of warm clothes, and if cold enough, a moderate heat source (you don't need much with good insulation). Living in a modern (desert) city with tons of asphalt, things painted dark colors, and poor building design is a great way to get heat stroke.

Re:Doesn't add up (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011969)

If you turn off heating and air conditioning you should be using a lot less than 10kW

No. Our house uses gas for heating and cooking, we live in a country that doesn't need a/c and the daily electricity consumption: lights, computers, washing, kettle, TVs, microwave, fridge comes to about 9kW*Hr per day.

The idea that a stack of 10kW*Hr batteries could power 5 houses for 2 hours is what happens when you apply statistics without any common sense. During the night, those batteries could power lots more houses (like ours) for much longer. However come waking up time, when every household uses an electric shower for each resident, kettles, toasters and lighting and I doubt you'd get 1 house for 20 minutes out of that many batteries - assuming they didn't fail under that load.

Re:Doesn't add up (2)

imsabbel (611519) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012557)

I strongly suspect you are a retard, or do not know how to use units.

9kWh per day means that this battery could power your house for over 1 day. That would be a lot more than 2 hours for 5 houses of equal resonse.

9kW continuous power draw (what you seem to imply by ignorance) would mean that you would burn >$500 in electricity per months, even at extremely low american prices.

Re:Doesn't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011683)

what are you doing that uses 10kW ?

Re:Doesn't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011713)

In many areas, electricity is not commonly used to heat houses, and air conditioning is not commonly installed in houses. This means the electricity demand for houses is very different than your house and it will generally not use 10 KW.

In fact, in the country I live in many older houses only have a 40 ampere max connection to the grid. At 230 volt, that's not even 10 KW.

Re:Doesn't add up (3, Informative)

hrvatska (790627) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011905)

Apparently you are not the target market that this is being considered for. Often times solutions are not a good fit for many, but still work for enough people that they are worth marketing. For some people a subcompact car is totally inadequate, for others it's more than enough. Just because you have a need for more than 10kW doesn't mean that this isn't a good solution for millions of others. Many of us do not have air conditioning, electric stoves, electric dryers, or massive flat screened TVs. Our needs are considerably less than yours. I live in a household of 3 people that used 296 kWH of electricity in October. Two of us work from home. My immediate neighbors are probably not using much more electricity than we are. I don't see why a 10 kWH battery couldn't supply us with several hours of emergency power. Why are you so dismissive of a solution that would be perfectly adequate for many others?

Re:Doesn't add up (3, Interesting)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012075)

A 10kW generator is *barely* enough to run 2 or 3 10,000BTU window air conditioners. I believe you need ~24kW of 220v capacity to start a normal 2-3 ton central air conditioner.

It's a shame companies like Carrier, Rheem, etc can't put a little effort into designing central ac units that are "generator friendly" & can start with less inrush current. Like, maybe some kind of transmission that would allow the compressor to spin up slowly, instead of just soaking up 20+ kW for 3 seconds before settling down to half that amount. Or logic to start up the compressor, THEN the blower fan, instead of both at once.

Re:Doesn't add up (1)

DarthBart (640519) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012139)

Wiring a delay between the compressor start and outdoor blower would be trivial and thermostats with even a small amount of smarts delay starting the indoor airhandler a few seconds after the outdoor unit starts. But, no matter how you slice it, a motor just starting up is effectively "Stalled" and draws a crap load of inrush current. There's designs to reduce that a bit, but they're expensive to build.

Re:Doesn't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42012317)

Friction clutch.

Re:Doesn't add up (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42012377)

They do. Newer units are starting to use inverter-driven compressor motors for variable speed. The actual reason to use them is higher efficiency while operating, but a very nice side-effect is virtually no inrush.

I spend time on several off-grid / renewable-energy forums, and one of the biggest changes for off-grid homes recently is that you can buy inverter-driven mini-split AC units that can cool a (small) home from solar / battery banks without any issue. Several people set the unit to "low" in the morning, and let it run all day, draws only 300W. Won't keep the house cold, in fact the temp slowly climbs through the day, but only to 78 instead of 85-90.

I have a portable AC unit (roll-around, with the flex hose to exhaust hot air out the window) that uses an inverter. 9000 BTU, draws 1200W or so while running, starts just fine with a little Honda EU2000i generator (1600W continuous, 2000W peak). The 9000 BTU mini-split (standard compressor) in my server closet won't even try to start, the generator just bogs down.

Re:Doesn't add up (1)

confused one (671304) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012153)

They're designing to supplement the grid, not replace it. You're 10kW generator can't handle the peak loads on your house. When someone talks about x kW (it depends on region) powering n homes, they're talking about average demand.

Re:Doesn't add up (1)

pla (258480) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012221)

Lets see, my 10kW generator doesn't even power my whole house, and a 10kWH battery set is supposed to provide electricity to 5 houses for 2 hours, that would be 1kW a house. Somehow this seems to be a new use of the word "provide" I was not previously aware of.

As an offline system, no, that amounts to a pitiful amount of power.

As a grid-tie supplementary system, most likely your "background" power use comes in at somewhere between 0.5 to 1kW.

Charging this bank overnight at $0.015/kWH, then using it during the daytime peak at $0.285/kWH comes out to a savings of very nearly $1000/year (so the first year would cover the cost of the inverter, basically), just for squeezing the last bit of use out of something otherwise considered garbage.

Re:Doesn't add up (2)

budgenator (254554) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012239)

If your 10KW generator doesn't run your whole house, either your generator needs load testing, or you have some really hellacious electric bills. Perhaps a Kill-A-Watt [thinkgeek.com] could help you figure out why your electric meter is spinning like a top. For planning purposes electric utillities assume a household uses 1.6KW, your claiming your using 6 1/4 times the typical.

Re:Doesn't add up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42012337)

Ah yes, the old "If I can't use it, no one else should ever be allowed to have it either' mentality.

Well your computer is useless to a dirt farmer in china, does that mean you shouldn't be allowed to have a computer?
Second thought, that would keep you from posting bullshit on slashdot, so perhaps you are on to something after all!

Sounds like bullshit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011699)

My little 1500 watt heater wrecks their calculations. And that's just in one room of one house.

And 5 battery packs is a good chunk of space and weight.

Plus you need charge controllers, transfer switches, and some way to recharge the batterys. And if you've got enough solar/wind to recharge 10kw in a reasonable time.. You don't really need that giant ass battery pack now. Otherwise you're using the grid to recharge and just delaying your energy usage.. and losing X% to efficiency losses thru every cycle.

Nope. Sounds like bullshit put out by an industry worried they're gonna have to pickup the tab to recycle these giant toxic batteries.

Re:Sounds like bullshit. (5, Informative)

Smidge204 (605297) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011835)

This is for grid-level storage, not in-your-home backup. Space and weight are a distant concern compared to cost.

There is an important concept called demand (or load) leveling. How much electricity the grid demands changes significantly over the course of the day, so you much design your power plants and infrastructure to handle the peak load. However the peak load is only experienced a small fraction of the time, meaning you are considerably overbuilt for maybe 16 to 18 hours of the day - especially late at night when most people sleep. The problem is so severe that many utility providers offer Time-Of-Use rates where electricity during off-peak hours is considerably cheaper (and on-peak considerably more expensive) to encourage people and businesses to use less during the day and more at night.

Batteries connect to the grid though a charge controlling inverter - a single piece of equipment. During the off-peak hours they absorb excess energy by charging, meaning the generation equipment runs more efficiently and more economically. During peak hours they release the energy decreasing the demand on the system so it doesn't have to be so overbuilt and therefore less expensive to maintain and operate.

The process of shifting load from peak to off-peak is sometimes referred to "filling the bathtub" [youtube.com] and utility providers love it since it makes their lives much easier. Battery storage is a great way to achieve this at the grid level and anyone who manages to develop a cost effective solution stands to make a LOT of money selling and installing such systems.
=Smidge=

For off-grid homes (3, Interesting)

crow (16139) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011737)

While I agree that this doesn't make much sense for most people--the cost of the electricity to keep them charged isn't worth having a few hours coverage in blackouts for most people, this is quite useful for people with off-grid homes in remote locations. I had friends building in a remote location, and running the power lines to the house would cost as much as a solar array with batteries to last through the night. With used electric car batteries, the cost of such a system would drop significantly.

The idea isn't to have electric car owners make use of their worn-out batteries, but to create a market for them to sell them.

Re:For off-grid homes (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011851)

I had friends building in a remote location, and running the power lines to the house would cost as much as a solar array with batteries to last through the night. With used electric car batteries, the cost of such a system would drop significantly.

The question here is startup costs versus operational costs. Solar panels and batteries both required maintenance and have to be replaced regularly... Power lines generally require little to no maintenance and require replacement only at great intervals.

Lacking a pressing or political/ideological reason for choosing solar, I'd have to pencil out the figures and study them closely before assuming solar is the better solution. There's considerations that people don't often think of in these assumptions, like the need for power during the day and the annual cycle of solar availability.

Re:For off-grid homes (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011961)

the cost of the electricity to keep them charged isn't worth having a few hours coverage in blackouts for most people

Surely once they're charged all you need is a trickle to keep them topped up? It's not like an electric car runs flat if you don't drive it for a week...

Re:For off-grid homes (1)

ljw1004 (764174) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012129)

What energy is taken to "keep them charged"? Where does it all go? The only possible outlet for it is heat from the batteries. So if you're doing it over times of year when the house needs heating anyway, then there'd be zero wasted energy. (But I find it hard to believe that even a small amount would be lost as heat).

Re:For off-grid homes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42012327)

I agree. Interestingly enough - these batteries can be bought second hand from assorted recycling yards for a few hundred bucks each, and a small array of them in your basement with some sort of charging system (solar, charging timer etc) would be good for an emergency backup should the power go out or as you mentioned, in an off-grid setup in a remote location. The rating from the factory is 4.4kwh so if you can find two decent units, you can have anywhere from 6-8kwh of storage in your basement easily enough for significantly less than what your typical off-grid battery arrays run for.

A good sized solar array could power your house during the day, charge the batteries, and the battery array can power the house during the night.

Either that or you can have a small single panel for trickle charging purposes, and the battery array for emergency power in case of failure.

Re:For off-grid homes (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012429)

Actually, given net metering [wikipedia.org] and variable rate time of day [wikipedia.org] metering, it might be economical to charge your batteries at night (low power rates) and sell that back to the utility during peak periods (high rates). One would have to work out the economics. And be willing to live with the deleterious health effects of a smart meter [slashdot.org] , of course.

The best solution would be to install a battery system at the site of each wind turbine, making the control of the battery charge/discharge algorithm tightly coupled to instantaneous wind power output to fill in the gaps.

It is so common to see it in India. (5, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011743)

The grid goes on the blink for so long in India, almost every (middle and higher class) homes have truck batteries that charge from the grid when the power is on and run fans, lights and TV when it is off. A typical truck battery powers a couple of fluorescent lights, and a couple of ceiling fan for about six hours. But they usually do not run air conditioners or refrigerators on batteries.. yet. Last trip I saw advertisement for "air conditioners specifically designed for inverters". (Inverter converts the DC current from the batteries to AC current for the mains. )

In USA they do not have much use. For emergencies like Sandy, FEMA should simply develop a plan to send the fuel trucks from the army and drive around the affected neighborhoods and dispense fuel for cars in the drive way of homes. The municipalities can collect the cost of the fuel from the homeowners through utility bills later. And the collected money can be considered emergency grants from the federal govt to the municipalities. Once you have an assured supply of fuel in an emergency, we can use the hundreds of thousands of power plants that are already present in these locations.

The hundreds of thousands of powerplants are typically four cylinder gasoline engines, and a good portion of them are six and eight cylinders, the automobile engines. Presently the alternator is sized to provide just enough electric power for the car. If we design a generator that runs at the right RPM, and connection kits that will allow it to be coupled to an car engine it would be very helpful. I am thinking of some kind of frame, a new serpentine belt, or some way to work off the belt driving the alternator. If FEMA funds the R&D to create these kits, builds them and stocks them, they can be deployed in an emergency.

In an emergency so many people would happily stay at home and avoid driving around, if they can. But they are all forced to run around looking for food, gas and water. Municipalities should develop emergency plans where their residents simply text to some known number information like, "running short of water/food/gas", "Medical attention needed", "Number of young children = XX". They should consolidate and send around FEMA trucks to bring food/water/gas to them. If people have the peace of mind, they will stay home and let the roads free for people with real emergencies.

Re:It is so common to see it in India. (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012395)

You know who else believed in a centrally-planned, government-run society?

Re:It is so common to see it in India. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012491)

Oh! yeah! The private sector! The free markets! Let the people decide! Great!

The phone and power companies are private sector. Why the hell aren't they handling the emergencies better? It is completely irrational for private sector to set aside resources to handle emergencies. The free market will not reward them for it. All those resources are opportunity cost, they diminish profits. When an emergency hits, they will feign innocence, "no one could have seen this coming", "it is an act of God", "it is an unforeseen accident" and avoid paying for the damages caused by their total lack of preparedness.

The libertarian solution for problems is as flawed as central planning communistic philosophy. Basically the libertarians would let the free market to take its course, and if people are harmed, they can sue and collect for the damages. The competition will deliver goods and services at the lowest possible cost, and their excesses will be checked because they have to pay for any damage they cause.

This "solution" effectively puts the trial and personal injury lawyers as the only recourse against the excesses of free market. Further it assumes the government that is small enough to be drowned in the bathtub will somehow have the power to enforce the rulings of these judgement.

Of course, I agree there is a free market solution possible for emergencies. In an emergency FEMA will do whatever it takes to alleviate the pain and suffering. And then send the bill to the power and the phone companies that are chartered by their municipalities to have the monopoly. Crack down on them hard couple of times, then they will be prepared for emergencies. Basically they will take insurance against this. And the insurance companies will demand high premia . The utilities will find it cost effective to be better prepared and have agreements to borrow crew and equipment from each other to reduce the insurance costs. This will eventually lead to better handling of emergencies.

But the libertarian crowd is really shills for corporate america. They will take pot shots at people trying to solve problems. But if it ever takes a dime more from the corporations, they will fight that tooth and nail, even if it makes sure the problems go unsolved, and the wounds fester.

Re:It is so common to see it in India. (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012473)

just about every farm tractor has a "power take off" essentially an output shaft off the transmission or directly off the engine on smaller machines to run other equipment.

I agree it would be really really nice if at least larger autos like pickups and SUVs had this; maybe with a little electronic interconnect to allow external device to control the throttle servo the cruise control ordinarily uses. Naturally safety interlocks to make sure this stuff is only usable when the main transmission is in neutral. Then you could just back the thing out on to the drive, cable up the transfer switch attach the generator to the take off and produce as much electricity as you can use as long 16gal of petrol lasts.

Re:It is so common to see it in India. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42012499)

First, you have more faith in the competence of FEMA than many people do.

Second, I think you're rather glib about designing (and quickly distributing and installing in an emergency) an emergency power system that is compatible with hundreds of different makes and models of vehicles.

Re:It is so common to see it in India. (1)

DarkTempes (822722) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012511)

As someone who lives in the south and has gone through a lot of hurricanes I don't think your idea really makes sense.

If you properly prepare for a hurricane then running short of water/food/gas isn't a problem during the period when it would be unsafe to drive around to get those things.
Portable or whole-home generators that already exist make much more sense and are probably cheaper than designing something new to attach to cars.

And quite honestly the only thing people NEED power for in these situations is cooling or heating. Usually there are shelters to help people with this but certainly there could be better solutions (obviously not everyone can afford a generator or even has the space to run one).

In terms of food/water they tend to set up distribution centers with cases of MREs and water if things are bad.
If you have family or friends or neighbors who can't get there themselves then you help them out by getting some for them.
Maybe having neighborhoods set up emergency/disaster teams (kind of like neighborhood watch) to do this would be more efficient but in my experience it's not really an issue. Using the national guard for this is a waste.
However, the south is obviously not as densely populated as new york city so maybe they need to do things differently than typical hurricane country does it. Also, most people in NYC don't own cars so your 'using the car as a home generator' thing wouldn't really help them.

If things are REALLY REALLY bad then you were probably warned to evacuate and should have. Hurricanes aren't like earthquakes.

Living off the grid is different. (2)

SpzToid (869795) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011747)

This development will help a lot of folks who don't have reliable access to power. Just because it doesn't matter where you live doesn't mean this feat of technology does not matter to other people somewhere else.

http://www.haitianproject.org/updates/2012/9/living-son [haitianproject.org]

This is scraping the bottom of the barrel..... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011775)

Electric cars have proved to be a technology that the market place doesn't want. You can argue whether this is because they have technical problems, are too expensive, can't be charged easily, or whatever. But it is obvious that they are not selling. The UK has 28.5 million cars of which currently 1,107 are electric. That's after a 5000 GBP grant was offered for anyone who would buy one. I think they did a little better in the US last year, selling around 17,000, but that's still a drop in the ocean.

This piece does not consider any of the myriad practical problems associated with second-use of car batteries. It's just a puff piece trying to make green noises. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along....
 

The same problems remain (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011815)

The problems with these kinds of distributed system aren't so much technological anymore... but economic and operational. Who pays for them? Who maintains them? Who operates them? Who manages operations?

These are the hard questions to answer. (Though no doubt, I'll get plenty of replies with a variety of shallow and ill thought out answers...) These are the questions that need to have at least trial solutions before the system can be rolled out.

Math (1)

marciot (598356) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011825)

Why five houses for two hours? Does it not power one house for ten hours? I would prefer the latter...

Re:Math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011975)

Why five houses for two hours? Does it not power one house for ten hours? I would prefer the latter...

Because we're all socialists now, remember?

You would only prefer the latter if you weren't in one of those other 4 houses....

Re:Math (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42012187)

Why five houses for two hours? Does it not power one house for ten hours? I would prefer the latter...

Because we're all socialists now, remember?

You would only prefer the latter if you weren't in one of those other 4 houses....

One homeowner buys one, and the laws change to make him hook it up to the Section 8 housing on one side, and the homeless shelter on the other side (at his expense) so Obama's Free Shit Army can get their due. (Then the Section 8 folks run extension cords to their pals on the other side, for a total of 5 houses.)

Clearly!

Hybrid Batteries (2)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011837)

I looked up the capacity of Prius batteries in case anyone is interested: Normal = 1.31kWh (MH), Plug-in = 4.4hWh (LI).

Re:Hybrid Batteries (1)

Streetlight (1102081) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012205)

My Prius has a 67 horse power electric motor that acts as a generator to charge the car's batteries. Not sure, but if its generating capacity is 67 HP, that's about 50 kW. That should be plenty for a 10 kW house load. What I need to figure out is how to hook that up to my house electric system. It might be easier for the plugin Prius. Somehow, reverse the current flow.

Our two-person, 2,800 sq. feet house in Colorado uses about 450 - 500 kWhr of electric energy per month with gas water heater, gas dryer, gas heat, electric cooking stove. When purchased, the house had an electric water heater. It was quickly replaced with a gas water heater, and our electric usage was cut in half. Anyone who has access to natural gas should IMMEDIATLY replace their water heater with a gas fired device. The payback is pretty quick. Likewise, a gas dryer will save enormous energy costs, particularly if it doesn't use a pilot light. Our gas bill in the summer is essentially the cost of having the gas meter attached to the house since the dryer and water heater use so little energy.

Re:Hybrid Batteries (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012359)

Not sure, but if its generating capacity is 67 HP, that's about 50 kW.

That's peak. Something like a Prius probably consumes about 15 Hp cruising on the highway. So that's what its cooling system will be sized for. That's not bad, from a standby power point of view. It will provide adequate emergency power for a household (without electric hot water, air conditioning, etc). Just don't get carried away with the marketing numbers or you'll melt the motor.

Trailer Parks - Power Stations of the Future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42011907)

Now if your yard is full of old cars, it's no longer a junk yard.
Just think of all the beer you can keep cold in the refrigerators too.

Got backup? (2)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011917)

In Long Island, N.Y., my buddy's area lost power for almost a week from Sandy, but by using backup battery power he and his family had the only lights in his neighborhood. (He works for a company that provides backup power for office buildings, cellphone towers, phone/computer systems,...) The neighbors all wondered why he had power when they didn't. It's simply because he is prepared for outages when they occur.

Hark! The sound of preppers' rapidly tweeting (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011933)

This research is extremely promising to aid a small family compound during a short outage, and when used in combination with some wind, solar, and perhaps scavenged propane, a small group of people might live quite comfortably. There is a J-Lo class but though.....there will neither be enough batteries nor enough forethought to keep everyone sustainable where they live. The earth's biggest environmental concern is that a particular species has overrun the planet.

Pure unadulterated BS... (1)

Svartalf (2997) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011947)

This is not the power capability (except at a minimum draw) for 2-3 houses. If you've got ANY high-demand devices such as an on-demand water heater, oven/range, or a washer/dryer- you're going to burn through the pack MUCH faster- it'll almost power a SINGLE house fully.

do it right (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about a year and a half ago | (#42011983)

deep cycle marine batteries, why have two hours when you can have twelve or more

Re:do it right (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012555)

Right from a cost/capacity/maintainability standpoint wet lead acid batteries make much more sense. These MH and LI batteries virtues are density and weight neither of which nearly as big a concern when you don't need have them mobile. The only reason they are interesting at all is the economics, where their performance might be to degraded for automotive use but they could see a second use life as stand by power.

Still I find it highly questionably. Most LI batteries work near original capacity for their life span and then deteriorate very rapidly. How long is this second service life? The cost of installation, removal, and disposal all happening pretty frequently vs other batter technologies which can a decade and longer now, might very well negate the savings in reusing these things.

My other concern is its often worse having an unreliable backup than no back up. At least if you know you don't have electricity when the mains are down you can plan on having a neuroscience heater and some fuel around, gas lanterns etc. I'd hate to go around thinking I was protected and find my battery was worthless when I really need to run the heat in the winter. Yea I know test your backups.

Trouble is its hard to really validate a UPS's batteries are good except under load. Real load tests are sorta a pain in the arse to do at any frequency except where you have high tech like phase synced automatic transfer switches and such you won't have in a residential setting because they cost way to much.

really? (0)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012011)

I wouldn't have figured that the foremost thoughts on the minds of people fighting to survive a disaster (either natural or manmade) is how Honey fucking Boo Boo is doing. I would have thought that the foremost thing on peoples' minds would be the following, in order of necessity: water, food, shelter.

Water is easy: seal and stock. Stock a couple filters as well.
Food is easy: cook, seal and stock. Most of this is already done for you; it comes in cans. Bonus! Get a hand turned can opener or a survival kit multitool and learn how to use it, forget the electric can opener - it's no good without power.
Shelter: you have a house or other manmade structure around you, right now, do you not? You have the ability or knowledge to make fire? It's something Homo sapiens has enjoyed for several tens of thousands of years, now. Surely we have not forgotten how to strike two rocks together and use hair for kindling?

Have we as a species become so dependant on Edison technology that we're destined to extinction when the last bulb flickers and dies? I hope not.

Catching up to Nissan (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012059)

This plan has been built into the Nissan LEAF program since the beginning. The recycling plan for their batteries is to build power storage substations, not just for a few houses. This is a better plan because it keeps the batteries out of people's houses and off their block, for the most part, while not moving them so far away that they won't do any good.

Re:Catching up to Nissan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42012463)

i agree to the idea to keeps the batteries out of people's houses and off their block...
http://www.7mags.com/

Use compressed air instead! (1)

fredan (54788) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012115)

Wind, it's a nightmare for grid operators to manage

Instead of generating electricity directly in wind turbines, generate compressed air. Transport that energy in pipes and store it on land. On land you have an compressed air driven electricity generator for generating your electricity.

Now you go from peak energy to base load energy. With this, wind will not be an nightmare for grid operators to mange anymore.

The different to use compressed air as a storage for energy instead of batteries, is that you can discharge a compressed tank more times than you can discharge a battery.

Re:Use compressed air instead! (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012207)

Use hydro pump storage instead, for large scale installs it's the only power storage that can be enlarged with a steam shovel

Re:Use compressed air instead! (1)

fredan (54788) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012289)

I don't think that you can use hydro as a energy resource in a car or a bus. With compressed air you can.

Re:Use compressed air instead! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42012501)

I don't think that you can use hydro as a energy resource in a car or a bus. With compressed air you can.

The context of the discussion is storing power for residential backup and load leveling purposes. Cars and buses are another article.

Re:Use compressed air instead! (1)

fredan (54788) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012573)

I don't think that you can use hydro as a energy resource in a car or a bus. With compressed air you can.

The context of the discussion is storing power for residential backup and load leveling purposes. Cars and buses are another article

ok. fair enough.

How've gonna store the water energy in your residential? With compressed air you can.

Re:Use compressed air instead! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42012293)

Lots of water in West Texas.

Re:Use compressed air instead! (1)

bjs555 (889176) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012397)

You need to pump a lot of water to store the equivalent energy of a 50 Amp hr car battery. In fact, you'd need to pump all the water from a typical size swimming pool up 8 feet. And for a 10 KWhr system you'd need at least 16 batteries or 16 swimming pools. That suggests a new unit of energy - the swimming pool = at a height of 8 feet, the energy storage capacity of one car battery. Here are my calculations:

A typical car battery is rated at 50 Amp hr.
To get energy, multiply by battery voltage of 12.5 V.
Max energy stored in battery = 50 Amp hr * 12.5 V = 625 Watt hr.
Battery could supply 625 Watts for one hour or 62.5 Watts for 10 hours.

1 Watt hr = 3600 Joules
1 Joule = 0.7376 ft lb

625 Watt hr * 3600 Joules / Watt hr = 2,250,000 Joules

2,250,000 Joules * 0.7376 ft lb / Joule = 1,659,600 ft lb

1,659,600 ft lb * 1 ton / 2000 lb = 830 ft tons
Must lift 1 ton 830 feet or 10 tons 83 feet to store the same energy as a car battery.

1 gallon of water weighs 8.34 lb.
24,000 gal of water weighs 100 tons.
An average swimming pool holds 20,000 gal of water or about 100 tons of water.
Must pump all the water in a swimming pool up 8 ft to store the same energy as a car battery.

Re:Use compressed air instead! (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012571)

compressed gases are usually a terrible way to store energy in terms of loss.

Desulfate lead acid batteries instead (4, Interesting)

bjs555 (889176) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012465)

The FA talks about Li-ion batteries but I've read about people buying dead car batteries real cheap and bringing them back to life by desulfating them with a simple circuit based on a 555 timer. The idea is to pulse the battery at its resonant frequency of about 4 MHz with high voltage pulses to break up the lead sulfate crystals that often cause a battery to fail. Car batteries might be a cheaper alternative to Li-ion batteries for a home system. Here's a link to the circuit:
http://www.reuk.co.uk/Battery-Desulfation.htm [reuk.co.uk]

Recycle Old Car Batteries and use New Batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42012527)

It's more feasible to recycle old car battery chemicals. Home energy storage should use new batteries to maximize the charge(Voltage,Wattage,Current). Old car batteries might leak and not hold electrical charge. Using old car batteries is a mess.

In this thread (1)

imsabbel (611519) | about a year and a half ago | (#42012595)

Are tons of proud americans bragging against each other how much power their home needs.

Without understanding concepts like peak power, or the insight that they are idiots if any of their claims are true.

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