California Climate Solutions achieving environmental goals + creating business opportunities

Reuse and Repower

How to Save Money and Clean the Grid with Second-Life Electric Vehicle Batteries

Used electric vehicle batteries could be a critical – and inexpensive – part of the energy storage solution. The thousands of used batteries that will be coming out of electric vehicles in the coming years will still retain significant capacity, although not enough to provide a sufficient electric driving range. Property owners, developers, and utilities could harness energy storage from these inexpensive used batteries in a “second life” to help integrate variable renewables and save electricity costs.

Energy storage is critical to limiting California’s greenhouse gas emissions. Greater deployment of intermittent renewable energy technologies from wind and solar power will require grid operators to deploy energy storage technologies.

Second-life batteries can boost energy storage deployment overall. With the state now well on its way to meeting the renewable targets, aggregated second-life batteries may be well-positioned to help integrate this variable renewable energy while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.

Second-life battery sales could lower electric vehicle costs to benefit California’s environment and economy. The expanding residual market for second-life batteries could provide an upfront economic benefit to electric vehicle owners. Manufacturers or vehicle purchasers can factor in the residual value of the battery in the upfront cost.

Policy Needs

Policy Solutions

Providing Economic Certainty About Second-Life Battery Value Translating to Reduced Upfront Vehicle Costs.

Reduce uncertainty and costs in the second-life battery market through demonstration projects and financial and regulatory support.

Federal & State Leaders

Encourage more demonstration projects by improving grant support and reducing administrative barriers to implementation.

Demonstration projects help assess the costs and benefits of second-life battery applications and can encourage more private investment if successful. Failure to improve the grant process could hamper California’s ability to gather the best information from the right companies. Agencies developing grant programs can reduce the overhead costs required to comply with grant processing needs.

State & Industry Leaders

Improve the quality and market relevance of second-life battery demonstration projects.

Separate automakers could join forces to prove through research that the batteries can be aggregated in isolation. The automakers could also collaborate on a project proposal description for agencies to consider funding, rather than attempting to fit a project into existing grant opportunities like for the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program at the California Public Utilities Commission.

Federal & State Leaders

Remove regulatory barriers to allow second-life battery pilot projects access to specific grid markets.

Grid operators like the CAISO impose various rules and procedures for connecting energy facilities to the grid system, which present significant barriers for energy storage technologies such as second-life battery pilot projects.

Federal & State Leaders

Offer tax credits, rebates, and other financing support for second-life demonstration efforts.

Public sector financial support, at least to cover part of the project costs, can make the difference in getting a demonstration launched. Given the uncertainties associated with second-life batteries, government can also pledge to absorb the risk of any low-quality assets discovered in the process of providing grid services or reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Federal Leaders

Assign liability for second-life batteries to avoid stifling innovation and experimentation.

The government, with industry support, should clarify and remove liability for faulty second-life battery products in instances of third party reuse.

Improving Complex and Potentially Adverse Regulatory Environment.

Inventory, map, and address the suite of regulations affecting second-life battery deployment

Federal & State Policymakers

Commit to develop clear and consistent regulations over specified time lines.

As a long-term goal, policy makers should consider developing clear regulations on second-life batteries that businesses can rely on for an extended period of time. In addition, policy makers could help the market grow by coordinating the different regulations and timelines at multiple agencies affecting second-life batteries in order to ensure consistency and predictability for investment.

State Policymakers

Fund an expert panel to inventory, monitor, and address the most pressing agency regulations that affect second-life battery deployment.

Either the California Energy Commission or affected industries can gather experts on regulatory policy to assess the current regulations, regulatory gaps, and projected future of regulation, as well as the regulatory needs, based on different models of asset ownership at various stages of use.

Federal & State Leaders

Ensure that grid-related incentive programs include second-life batteries as eligible.

California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) as well as the federal Investment Tax Credit currently do not include second-life or used batteries. These programs should consider allowing second-life batteries to qualify in order to ensure they face a level playing  field of incentives from competing energy storage solutions.

Federal & State Agency Leaders

Ensure that carbon and grid regulations account for the potential of second-life batteries.

Policymakers should consider the multiple benefits that second-life batteries could provide. For example, policies to integrate excessive renewable energy generation should favor second-life batteries to absorb the surplus, and grid operators should change market rules to clarify that these batteries can participate.

Limiting Liability Uncertainties for Second-Life Batteries.

Clarify and Improve Liability Standards to Ensure Automaker Participation in the Second-Life Battery Market.

Industry Leaders

Identify and replicate existing liability models for
automotive parts for application to second-life battery liability.

Numerous automotive parts are reused, refurbished, and repurposed for subsequent owners, sometimes in ways the original manufacturer never intended. In many cases, the manufacturer is protected through liability shields that limit damages being attributed to them in case of defects or accidents.

Industry Leaders

Develop technical performance standards for second-life batteries.

Industry groups can voluntarily develop safety and performance standards for second-life electric vehicle batteries to help address liability concerns. If codified in statute or regulations, then conceivably any automaker that complies with these standards in selling second-life batteries could be protected from liability for certain damages.

Industry Leaders

Seek policy, such as supportive legislation, to make the performance and safety standards the basis for liability protection.

The industry-drafted safety standards could form the basis for national legislation or regulations to support a second-life battery market. They can help ensure the industry maintains high safety standards and that companies that comply will bene t from increased protection from liability in case of damages.

Industry Leaders

Enlist the insurance market for assistance in developing liability coverage for the second-life battery market.

Insurance companies could provide coverage for businesses that want to enter the second-life battery market, but they may be concerned about their potential exposure. If insurance companies could help fund studies on the risks as well as the standards development, they might  find the market advantageous to enter.

Gathering Data on Battery Life Performance in First and Second Use Applications.

Make Electric Vehicle Battery Data Available.

Industry Leaders

Identify the type of data that is most useful for making second-life market decisions, based on classifications and promising applications.

Industry leaders, with public sector support, may need to engage in a broader effort to track and collect data on battery performance. They will also need to experiment with different applications, from large utility roles to home- and commercial- scale uses, building data sets on the most promising particular use cases.

Automotive Leaders

Make available battery register data from first-life uses.

Second-life batteries can only function well if the new owner understands the condition of the batteries from the first life usage. Second-life battery customers will want to see the data on incoming assets and know how the batteries performed and were treated in their  first usage. They will then need to know how this history would affect deploying them in their second use. The automakers collect much of the data and could make it accessible.

State Leaders

Make available utility, government, and grid data to help industry actors understand promising second-life revenue opportunities, via an accessible database with incentives for participation.

State leaders will need to develop incentives and processes for entities to collect the battery energy data. State leaders should use incentives to encourage otherwise reluctant utilities and automakers to participate in data collection, possibly by starting with a strictly volunteer offering of whatever data and sources might be most easily made available. State leaders can then work collaboratively with these entities to  find a method to divulge more data.

State Leaders

Focus on collecting data from second-life battery pilot projects and fund data collection efforts from them.

State leaders should ensure that they receive and collect data from pilot project operators who have control over the full project. Universities and national laboratories are engaging in this research, including for various applications like microgrids, and could make the data available along with their private sector partners. These pilot projects should be feeding information, results, and data back to a central statewide database.

State Leaders

Use data as a basis for reducing electric vehicle ownership costs by quantifying the monetary benefits of second-life batteries.

Based on favorable data from these models and pilot projects, the California Public Utilities Commission should consider allowing electric vehicle automakers or customers to monetize the residual second-life battery value upfront to reduce purchase costs or monthly charging costs. That effort would help turn data into upfront value that could boost electric vehicle deployment.

"Mitsubishi already has a battery reuse project as part of a smart city program in Japan. The reason why we have it is because the government asked us to do so. We would do a demo project in California if state leaders came to us. And this is done on a large cost-share basis, so it’s not just government funded."

David Patterson, Mitsubishi