Possible second life for electric cars‘ batteries in refugee camps

Stella Dijksterhuis, Kees Jansen and Sjoerd de Wit (Source: ARN)

Amsterdam, The Netherlands –- In refugee camps and at military camps, the power supply is often a huge cost item. Diesel generators consume large volumes of fuel and are environmentally unfriendly. Three students from the University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam (HvA) have been looking into a potential solution: the use of end-of-life batteries from electric cars as a source of renewable energy.

Stella Dijksterhuis, Kees Jansen and Sjoerd de Wit are currently studying Technical Business Studies at the HvA. “For the graduation profile Innovation Management, we investigated the question how you can add value to end-of-life batteries from electric cars,” explained Jansen. “An end-of-life battery still delivers between 70 and 80 percent of its capacity. How can that residual capacity be used?”

Battery pilot on Pampus

The students investigated the technical and economic possibilities. As Sjoerd de Wit explained, “to determine the feasibility of our plans, we interviewed experts, including Hector Timmers, project manager at ARN. He was involved in a pilot on the island of Pampus, using end-of-life batteries as a source of renewable energy. We had a similar idea, but then for use on military and refugee camps.”

Stella Dijksterhuis explained the concept. “You install a series of end-of-life batteries in a container. You charge them up during the daytime using solar cells, to meet as much of the demand for energy at the camp as possible, thereby reducing the use of diesel generators. According to ARN, this approach will considerably extend the useful life of the battery, on condition they are not too heavily discharged.”

Several years’ payback time

The concept will solve a series of problems. “You save on fuel for the diesel generators,” said Jansen, naming just one example. “That means that you earn back the higher investment costs in the battery system at military camps in just over three years. In refugee camps, the payback time is just over six years.” The second life of the batteries is also favourable for the environment. “The emissions from the diesel generators are harmful,” continued Dijksterhuis. “If no alternative is found, the Ministry of Defence will not achieve its target of generating 70 percent of all its energy renewably, by 2030.”

Additional social relevance

Hector Timmers at ARN was delighted by the concept devised by the HvA students: “It is a waste to have to recycle batteries from electric cars if they can still be perfectly deployed in a stationary application. In addition, at present, recycling is extremely costly. For those reasons it is good to be able to reuse the energy capacity in this way. In our test bench on Pampus, we aim to determine how you can supply renewable energy to an island that is not connected to the power grid. In that sense, military and refugee camps are effectively ‘virtual islands’ often reliant entirely on their own power supply. The problems facing refugee camps are extremely current right now. That fact gives the students’ concept additional social relevance. For those reasons we would encourage the responsible parties to put this innovative approach into practice.”

Source: ARN