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Sunday, 08 November 2015 21:42

Entrepreneurs tap potential market for post-vehicle use of lithium-ion batteries

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Holland-based Sybesma’s Electronics launched a new company, Global Battery Solutions LLC, to find post-vehicle uses for lithium-ion batteries that are beyond their useful life in automotive applications. Holland-based Sybesma’s Electronics launched a new company, Global Battery Solutions LLC, to find post-vehicle uses for lithium-ion batteries that are beyond their useful life in automotive applications. COURTESY PHOTO

HOLLAND — As automakers continue electrifying their vehicle fleets, one West Michigan company has already started identifying uses for lithium-ion batteries after they’re no longer suitable for automotive applications.

Global Battery Solutions LLC (GBS), a Holland-based sister organization of Sybesma’s Electronics Inc., plans to grow its operations by integrating post-automotive lithium-ion batteries into new applications.

For Hank Sybesma, the president and CEO of both companies, the batttery technology has the potential to be “incredible” for his businesses.

“Our little electronics business that we’ve had for 50 years will be dwarfed with what this company can do,” he said referring to the potential with Global Battery Solutions.

The number of available post-vehicle lithium-ion batteries is expected to reach approximately 6.7 million by 2035, according to a report last year conducted by the Mineta National Transit Research Consortium and Grand Valley State University.

The pending influx of used lithium-ion batteries that are past their useful automotive life has prompted companies like Global Battery Solutions to develop methods and applications to repurpose and reuse those components.

Global Battery Solutions is currently in talks with the state officials in New York to service lithium-ion batteries previously used in bus fleets from various municipalities around the state. The company plans to repurpose the batteries for use in the state’s power grid to avoid brownouts during peak power usage.

Sybesma said he’s begun the process of forming a subsidiary in China to begin a similar operation in that country.

“There’s an investor in China who wants to pay a lot of money for us to start up a similar organization,” he said.

The company has already integrated post-automotive lithium-ion batteries into equipment such as forklifts, golf carts and handheld power tools.

Despite being categorized as repurposed, post-vehicle application lithium-ion batteries still have plenty of capacity and life left — just not enough to meet automakers’ extremely high standards, Sybesma said.

Since the cost of repurposed lithium-ion batteries is roughly a third of what the technology sells for new, Sybesma believes that the batteries will become popular among entrepreneurs as well as homeowners who may use them as an energy storage option.

“Instead of destroying them, we’re saying let’s reuse that and install it in the basement of your home and provide power and last for years,” Sybesma said. “(The batteries are) extremely useful and have tremendous potential to do things for people.”

Faculty members at GVSU have also capitalized on the growing market for post-automotive lithium-ion battery applications.

The university partnered with Hastings Township to develop a mobile recycling center made from a modified tractor trailer that uses a combination of solar panels and repurposed lithium-ion batteries. Those power sources allow the partners to move the center as needed and keep it independent from the power grid.

The solar panels and batteries power the unit’s basic systems, such as wireless Internet, cameras and lighting. Operators use the camera system to monitor the level of the bins to see when they need to be emptied, said Charles Standridge, the associate dean of GVSU’s Padnos College of Engineering and Computing.

In addition to managing the project, Standridge also co-authored the Mineta-GVSU report.

GVSU funded the center with grant dollars from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovation Technology Administration University Transportation Centers program, which is supported through the Mineta Research Consortium.

GVSU’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon also contributed to the project.

The recycling center’s independence from the grid means that it can be placed in rural locations that don’t otherwise have access to cost-effective curbside recycling, Standridge said. The center could also provide recycling options at outdoor gatherings such as festivals and carnivals.

“You can take the recycling to where the people are,” Standridge said. “Where you would landfill everything, now you can do some recycling.”

The mobile recycling center is also cost-effective since it uses repurposed lithium-ion batteries — which can be a quarter of the cost of new batteries — along with a used tractor trailer, Standridge said.

Future centers could be be produced for less than $10,000 apiece, he said.

“It was economical to put this all together,” Standridge said.

Read 3490 times Last modified on Sunday, 08 November 2015 22:16
John Wiegand

Staff writer

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