Climate change concerns are driving incentives to increase the fuel economy of passenger vehicles. Consequently, this has resulted in a growing prevalence of electrified vehicles (EVs) consisting of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fully electric vehicles. Unfortunately, EVs are often removed from the road when 70 to 80% of the original energy capacity remains in their battery pack. In order to maintain or increase the value of EV battery packs in an end-of-vehicle life scenario, there are three potential solutions: remanufacturing for re-use, recycling, or repurposing. However, the complexity of handling dissimilar battery chemistries makes both remanufacturing and recycling a significant challenge. Hence, repurposing may prove to be a more viable short-term goal of the industry.
In order to explore this potential outcome, a team of undergraduate students studied the continuous cycling effects of used and refurbished Toyota® Prius nickel metal hydride battery packs. A Raspberry Pi 2 Model B microcomputer recorded relevant data, including battery pack voltage, energy input, and energy output. In combination, a Laboratory Virtual Instrument Engineering Workbench (LabVIEW™) control system used this logged information to regulate charging and discharging of the battery pack. In addition, to enhance the environmental sustainability of the project, this control system acquired solar information from a nearby weather station, subsequently ensuring that the battery pack only recharged during times of peak solar radiation. Analysis of the pack’s energy balance helped to characterize the cycle life of the pack and its potential in repurposing. Others can emulate the methodology employed as a way to instruct students about the potential left in used vehicular battery packs and their possible integration with the electrical grid.