Life After Usefulness

    When a lithium-ion battery has exceeded its usefulness to power your EV, what happens next?

    Source: Argonne National Laboratory 

    The question of what to do with lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) once they have exceeded their usefulness within an electric vehicle (EV) is an important consideration currently facing proponents of EVs. In an FAQ document recently published by Argonne National Laboratory, this issue is addressed in detail. In this article, we will highlight some of the main points from the Argonne publication in addition to offering further resources on the matter.

    The question of EV sustainability when battery manufacturing comes into play is vital to a sustainable electric future, and determining the fate of used LIBs is an important part of the answer. Recycling is a popular option as it allows manufacturers to recover some of the metals used in the manufacture of LIBs, and many companies are working on LIB recycling programs. The Department of Energy's Vehicle Technology Office (VTO) released a research plan to Reduce, Recycle, and Recover Critical Materials in Lithium-Ion Batteries in June 2019. But recycling is not the only answer.

    Generally, an LIB is considered to have exceeded its useful life and is removed from an EV once the storage capacity has depleted enough that the battery is no longer viable for powering the vehicle. However, many of these used LIBs still have “significant storage capacity remaining when they no longer meet the power and energy demands of a typical vehicle application” (Argonne). These second-life battery applications allow used LIBs to provide stationary storage or power for other types of equipment that don’t require the same level of power or storage as an EV.

    Recycled? Refurbished? Second-Life?

    There is potential for confusion surrounding the various post-vehicle fates of a used LIB. Used LIBs can be recycled, meaning the battery is broken down and stripped of its remaining useful resources - generally metals such as cobalt and nickel. These resources are then used in the manufacture of new LIBs. Used LIBs can also be refurbished, which means the battery is evaluated and fixed and deemed eligible to be used for the original purpose, namely, powering an EV. Second-life, however, refers to “a new, nonautomotive use of an automotive LIB after its initial use in a vehicle” (Argonne). According to Argonne National Laboratory’s Battery Second Life FAQ, “While the LIB may no longer meet the power and energy demands of a vehicle, it may still be capable of significant energy storage and have up to 10 years of life remaining in different applications.”


    There are various types of second-life applications for LIBs depending on the type of LIB and the requirements of the application.

    Behind-the-Meter (BTM) Storage

    When LIBs are used for behind-the-meter (BTM) storage, they are being used in residential, commercial, or industrial applications, where the electricity goes through the meter before being used or stored.

    BTM storage is beneficial because it can allow consumers to store electricity purchased during low-cost periods for use during peak demand periods, helping to lower overall electricity costs. BTM storage is also commonly used in conjunction with solar power, as the battery-stored electricity helps to even out the variable output from the solar setup.

    Learn more about BTM storage services from this Solar Power World article.

    Front-of-the-Meter (FTM) Storage

    Front-of-the-meter (FTM) storage services are large-scale applications used most often by utilities for purposes such as load relief, “frequency regulation, voltage support, and excess renewable energy storage” (Argonne). It is so-called because the LIBs are situated before the electricity runs through a meter to a user. According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, LIBs “accounted for nearly 90% of large-scale battery storage additions” in 2017.

    FTM storage is an important second-life application for LIBs as it can help improve the efficiency of utilities. LIBs can potentially be used to store excess energy produced during times of low demand to be discharged during times of high demand. Additionally, FTM storage systems can store energy generated from variable renewable energy sources - energy sources that fluctuate in output and cannot be controlled (such as wind or solar energy) - to smooth the output of those sources and better meet demand.

    Learn more about grid-scale battery storage from NREL and USAID’s Grid Integration Toolkit or from IRENA’s Utility-Scale Batteries Innovation Landscape Brief.

    Telecommunications and Data Center Backup

    LIBs can also be used to provide backup power for telecommunications and data centers. “Power for telecommunications towers is currently the largest second-life application in the world. Data centers, which need stable power, represent a potential market” (Argonne).

    Electric Vehicle Charging

    Used LIBs can also help power electric vehicle charging at charging stations. Much like BTM storage, LIBs can be used to help charging stations store energy for use during peak demand to lower overall electricity costs and reduce strain on the grid from fast-charging stations. According to Argonne,  “50–300-kWh battery systems that facilitate direct current (DC) fast charging to decrease peak demands from the grid can result in lower charging costs for the charging station operator and the vehicle user. Demand charges, which are related to the rate of electricity delivery (kW), as opposed to the total amount delivered (kWh), are a driver of electricity cost for DC fast-charger applications” (Argonne).

    Learn how EVgo is using second-life EV batteries to power fast-charging stations in California.

    Low-Power Electric Vehicles

    LIBs that are unable to meet the demands of an electric passenger vehicle can still find use powering other electric vehicle options such as golf carts, forklifts, and other industrial and commercial vehicles. These vehicles have lower power and distance requirements than passenger electric vehicles, so they are a potentially good second-life fit for LIBs with reduced storage capacity.

    Learn how Audi is using second-life LIBs from its electric vehicles to power forklifts in its factories.


    There are many challenges to overcome in considering second-life applications of LIBs. LIBs are considered hazardous and as such have challenging rules and regulations surrounding their shipment and handling. “Because LIBs are classified as a Class 9 hazardous material, transportation of LIBs can be challenging. These batteries must be handled in a specific way by individuals with the proper certifications, increasing the cost of shipping” (Argonne). LIBs are also complex and require various parts and pieces - “cells, modules, battery management systems (BMS), thermal management systems, packaging” (Argonne) - outside of the battery itself to keep things running smoothly. These parts are not always compatible with intended second-life applications, meaning the battery may need new parts, such as a new battery management system, to fit it for its new second-life usage. Additionally, not all vehicle LIBs are exactly the same, and mixing battery modules from various sources can add variability to battery performance.

    Creating a market for used LIBs can also cause issues if the supply of batteries available for second-life applications does not meet the demand. Vehicle LIBs are generally already designed to last a decade, and the technology continues to progress. If continued research leads to extended battery life, better and more efficient recycling practices, or more easily refurbished and reused battery modules for further vehicle applications, “this would reduce the flow of LIB modules for second-life applications. So, while beneficial to extending LIB life, it would represent a challenge to the second-life market” (Argonne).

    Despite these challenges, many second-life LIBs are already in use and development around the world, including Nissan's plan to install streetlights powered by used Nissan LEAF LIBs in Namie, Japan (see right photo). The number of projects is expected to grow as more and more purchased EVs eventually hit the decade mark and beyond.

    For more information about second-life lithium-ion battery applications, see Argonne National Laboratory’s “Battery Second Life Frequently Asked Questions” or reach out to Jarod C. Kelly, Vehicle Systems Analyst Engineer | Phone: 630-252-6579 | assessments

    About Argonne National Laboratory

    The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

    About Clean Cities

    As part of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO), Clean Cities coalitions foster the nation's economic, environmental, and energy security by working locally to advance affordable, domestic transportation fuels, energy efficient mobility systems, and other fuel-saving technologies and practices. Since beginning in 1993, Clean Cities coalitions have achieved a cumulative impact in energy use equal to nearly 8 billion gasoline gallon equivalents through the implementation of diverse transportation projects. More information is available at

    About Louisiana Clean Fuels

    Louisiana Clean Fuels (LCF) was established in 1997 as an affiliate of the United States Department of Energy (DOE) Clean Cities program and received designation on April 11, 2000. Currently celebrating its 20th Anniversary as a Clean Cities coalition, LCF operates as an independent, non-profit association supported through its partnerships with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and its stakeholders. The mission of LCF is to advance the nation’s environmental, economic, and energy security by supporting local actions to diversify transportation fuel options. In 2018, Executive Director Ann Vail was inducted into the Clean Cities Coordinator Hall of Fame. Learn more at

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    Clean fuels experts gather for Clean Cities event in Baton Rouge

    Advanced Transportation Technologies, Funding Opportunities and US Department of Energy’s VTO Research Discussed at Local Clean Cities Meeting

    Louisiana Clean Fuels hosted its Annual Stakeholder Meeting on January 31st at the acclaimed BRCC Automotive Technology Center in Baton Rouge.

    February 10, 2020 - by LCF staff writers: Ann Vail & Victoria Herrmann

    Over 50 clean fuels experts from industry, state and federal government, metro planning commissions and utilities gathered together on Friday, January 31, 2020, for updates from their Clean Cities coalition, Louisiana Clean Fuels, on new mobility challenges, heavy duty electric vehicles, air quality issues, and technological advances that are changing the way we think about how we move people and products across our roadways and through our towns.

    The meeting kicked off with LCF Executive Director and Coordinator Ann Vail giving an overview of LCF’s 2019 accomplishments along with a look ahead at LCF’s 2020 Strategic Plan, including DOE initiatives, projects and programs for the year. Over the past year, the coalition was involved in advancing the adoption of alternative fuels across the state and the installation of critical fueling infrastructure. LCF worked with various organizations across the state to help them apply for the final two rounds of Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Funding this past year. Additionally, the coalition published its DC Fast Charging Master Plan with the goal of establishing a DC Fast Charging network that meets the Federal Highway Administration’s guidelines for alternative fuel corridors. LCF worked throughout 2019 with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) and electric utilities across the state to utilize this Master Plan to help inform decisions on the optimal placement of DC Fast Chargers along our interstate corridors. The coalition was also instrumental in assisting the LDEQ to purchase an EV for their fleet and install chargers in two state garages, and they are the first state agency to do so.

    LCF’s accomplishments over the past year are also impressive by the numbers. In 2019,

    • LCF’s stakeholders reported a record  9.6 million gallons of gasoline equivalent (GGEs) reduced by their 2018 activities, the largest GGE reduction LCF stakeholders have ever reported.
    • LCF conducted 23 hours of free alternative fuel safety 101 classes for first responders.
    • The coalition certified three new fleets into their Green Fleets Certification Program, designed to help fleets improve the economic and environmental performance of their vehicle operations.
    • LCF hosted 4 EV showcase events to more than 300 attendees across the state as part of the Louisiana Electric Vehicle Roadshow.

    Looking forward to 2020, the coalition outlined its top programming priorities. “Through our visits with our legacy natural gas fleets in our territory, we have learned that some of these early adopters are in need of training for their technicians and updates to their equipment,” says Vail when discussing tasks assigned to them in their 2019 and 2020 cooperative agreement with the Department of Energy. The LCF Executive Director explained to the audience how workforce development and improving access to alternative fuel technician training were at the top of their to-do list for 2020. Vail explained how the shortage of trained heavy-duty technicians is an issue across the country and is felt especially hard by fleets with advanced technologies and alternative fuels.

    In 2020, the coalition has plans to continue to work with VW Settlement funding awardees for EVSE to help them implement the installation of their EV charging equipment and to continue to work to improve charging and fueling infrastructure for all alternative fuels. As a part of this initiative, LCF plans to host several training sessions related to alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies covering topics such as EV charging infrastructure for medium- and heavy-duty EVs, developments in gaseous and liquid alternative fuels, and an EV 101 workshop for local leaders to prepare for an electrified future. The coalition will also continue organizing and facilitating multiple-fuel and/or technology-specific listening sessions with fleets and other stakeholders to identify technology gaps and critical research needs to improve vehicle/infrastructure performance and usability.

    Ann Vail presenting LCF's 2020 Initiatives

    LCF’s 2020 programmatic priorities include:

    • Encourage investment in renewables through education with ongoing projects like our “Waste to Fuel” Curriculum initiative
    • Increase the efficiency of public and private fleets through programs such as LCF’s Green Fleets Certification program and Light Duty EV Readiness Fleet Analysis
    • Support legacy alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) fleets by conducting “Listening Sessions,” hosting technical trainings, and collaborating with members on funding proposals
    • Improve fueling infrastructure by hosting regional AFV infrastructure meetings in addition to utilizing LCF’s EV Charging Corridor Master Plan
    • Support and empower our first responders by continuing to offer safety training to Louisiana first responders

    Joe Annotti, Vice President of Programs at Gladstein, Neandross & Associates (GNA), was up next and gave an enlightening presentation on “The Status of Our Zero Emission Transportation Future.” Annotti presented an overview of various zero-emission transportation technologies, including electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, in addition to discussing the progression of Volkswagen Mitigation Trust funding across the country. 

    At one point, Annotti called out to the audience for guesses on which fuels have thus far received the most VW funding. “Diesel!” came a quick answer, quickly followed by a shouted, “Propane!” and a bit of uncertainty over how natural gas and electric would stack up. A ripple of surprise spread through the audience as Annotti revealed that the second-most-funded fuel type (including infrastructure) for the VW Settlement is actually electric. Annotti followed up this reveal by explaining how various states across the US are incentivizing or even requiring zero-emission vehicles and infrastructure. “The south will rise?” he questioned with a shrug as he gestured to the blank southern US on a “ZEV Winner’s Circle” map. One takeaway from Annotti’s presentation is just that: How can the southern US and Louisiana, in particular, catch up to other states in the zero-emission race? “Utilities are so important to the future of zero-emission vehicles,” he said, emphasizing the necessity of including utilities, whose role has evolved to include funding EV infrastructure, in the zero-emission conversation. Annotti also listed several zero-emission initiatives and key opportunities in other states as examples, illustrating the importance of all stakeholders - state agencies, municipalities, fleets, utilities, and consumers - working together to achieve an electrified future.

    Michael D. Laughlin, PMP, Technology Manager, Technology Integration Program of the U.S. Department of Energy Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) next gave “An Overview of DOE Vehicle Technologies Research for New Mobility Opportunities.” “Transportation is fundamental to our way of life,” one of Laughlin’s slides proclaimed, illustrating the VTO’s vision of finding sustainable, efficient, and affordable transportation solutions. Laughlin focused primarily on Energy Efficient Mobility Systems (EEMS) in his presentation. “It’s The Jetsons,” he said, prompting laughter in the audience, as he explained the variety of topics that fall under EEMS. Connective, automated vehicles; shared micro-mobility; e-commerce; shared ride services; infrastructure, SMART mobility...all of these various methods of connection and transportation fall under the EEMS umbrella. Laughlin also explained SMART - Systems and Modeling for Accelerated Research in Transportation - Mobility, offering insight into some of the methods through which the VTO studies new mobility technologies and projects along with various metrics through which the VTO attempts to measure the efficiency of these systems.

    The MEP - or Mobility Energy Protocol - System, for example, combines various modes of transport into a holistic metric for better comparison. The system seeks to make different modes of transport for various situations more comparable in terms of efficiency and energy use. “High MEP would be something like being able to walk to most places in a city,” Laughlin said, explaining the high efficiency of such a situation. Another slide demonstrated how increased vehicle efficiency would translate to overall increased MEP for a region. Laughlin’s presentation effectively demonstrated just how complex mobility and transportation research is. Considering the many ways to increase efficiency in current modes of transportation while also researching and developing new mobility technologies and ensuring that all of these various modes connect and work together as efficiently as possible is a daunting task, and the VTO has experts on the case. The VTO, he explained, wants to connect the community with information. There are many resources available on the VTO’s website, Laughlin noted, explaining the difficulty of navigating the ridiculous amounts of data and information surrounding mobility research. Laughlin pointed out tools, resources, and connections available for stakeholders to use “to help all of you with this new mobility world.”  One such resource? “Clean Cities is a connection to this community of experts - they (and we) are here to help!” 

    Following the first two presentations, attendees networked and chatted over a luncheon jointly sponsored by the Propane Education and Research Council and EMSI Air. After lunch, attendees were able to step outside to view a display of three Teslas in front of the BRCC facility. Attendees had the opportunity to look over the vehicles, sit in them, and also speak to the vehicle owners standing by to answer questions. Everyone then headed to the back of the Automotive Technology Center to step aboard one of the new Capital Area Transit System (CATS) electric BYD buses and learn about the technology behind these new clean, efficient vehicles.

    After admiring the BYD electric bus outside, attendees resumed their seats to hear Ralph Serrano, Senior Project Manager of BYD, present on BYD’s “Development of Commercial Electric Vehicles”. Serrano explained BYD’s focus on a zero-emission ecosystem, giving an overview of the various types of electric vehicles that BYD produces and their applications. One issue Serrano described for BYD is getting customers to be open to learning about electric vehicles in the first place. Despite this initial hesitancy, Serrano concluded by revealing that rates of electric vehicle adoption around the world are higher than previously forecast, which spells a bright future for EV development. In discussing BYD's work with CATS, Serrano noted that many customers are looking for "the whole package;" BYD is currently working with CATS not only to supply their new electric buses but also to plan out and install their charging infrastructure in a way that works best for CATS. This seems like an interesting progression of how vehicle suppliers can work with their fleet customers and perhaps open them up to the idea of electric vehicles; many buyers don't know much about EVs, so EVs and the infrastructure involved can seem overwhelming or like far too much work or research to understand. By incorporating "the whole package" from vehicles to planning to infrastructure into the deal, companies like BYD with experience and expertise on the issue can help ease fleets into an electrified future, one where fleets don't have to figure everything out themselves.  As for CATS, they're moving quickly toward that future with the help of BYD. If you look closely, you will notice the three green and yellow BYD electric buses servicing routes for CATS around East Baton Rouge. The transit system has ordered three more electric buses from BYD with a contract to purchase three more in the future.

    The final presentation of the day was a “UPS Sustainability Overview – How we help our Customers” from Stuart McAvoy, the Global Director of Supply Chain Optimization and Sustainability at UPS. McAvoy, also a recent addition to the LCF Board of Directors, offered an insightful look into UPS’s work to optimize its supply chain to limit carbon emissions and increase efficiency; strategies included shifting to more fuel-efficient modes of transport such as rail or leveraging technology such as telematics to decrease travel distance per route. McAvoy also reviewed UPS’s sustainability goals, including a recent exciting announcement that UPS will be purchasing 10,000 electric trucks from U.K. startup Arrival over the next five years, a plan which will double UPS’s alternative fuels vehicle fleet.

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