ECO-FRIENDLY AND COST-FRIENDLY: REPURPOSED BATTERIES FROM ELECTRIC CARS GET A SECOND LIFE

Pioneering startup takes its first steps towards standardization

The first company in Europe with a license to give old batteries a second life is based in Zwaag, The Netherlands. A nondescript building on an industrial lot is home to a truly pioneering enterprise. EcarAccu is a recycler of high voltage electric car batteries, a new market in dire need of standardization, if you ask Jasper Baltus. Which we did.

Eco-friendly pioneers

Jasper Baltus joined EcarAccu as Managing Director in 2017, two years after the startup was founded. He admires electric car pioneer Elon Musk’s approach to intellectual property: “Musk shared his patents with the world, and I really like that about him. I think it's a good thing to do. So I would be willing to share our standards with other disassemblers and car dealerships.”

 

Like Musk, Baltus is a pioneer in his own industry. EcarAccu are innovative in their approach because they actually reuse batteries, and the parts inside the batteries, instead of recycling them back to raw materials, as is usually done. To be able to do so, they had to develop a lot of specific knowledge and methods.

“We extend the life of these batteries by another five to ten years,” explains Baltus. “When a car battery has a little dent, it is immediately rejected, even though the components are often still perfectly fine. The quality of the cells inside these batteries is really great, they're much stronger than the batteries in your laptop or your mobile phone, so it would be a waste not to use them. And it's cool to be able to say you have a battery which came from an electric car, for example to store your solar energy at home.”

“Elon Musk shared his patents with the world, and I think that's a good thing. I would be willing to share our standards.”

Lack of standards

EcarACCU’s core business is collecting rejected batteries from all over Europe. They then check and dismantle the battery and select components to be reused. “These components go to our partners and get a second life, for example in boats, or for home storage, or for grid stabilization….but the thing is, because we are so innovative there are no standards yet. At least not for the second life part.”

Transporting batteries

Baltus goes on to explain: “Currently it’s unclear how to package the battery. The result is that most shipments from the car dealer are done in the safest option possible, which happens to be the most expensive option. But often, many of these safety measures are actually redundant.”

Most end customers are interested in second life batteries partly because of the lower price. Additional costs for transportation are unnecessary according to Baltus, as there is also a genuinely safe version that doesn’t need to be expensive. “There needs to be a standard in how you transport a battery.”

 

An additional dimension to the need for transportation standards are the international administrative differences in battery shipments. “We receive batteries from many different countries. Within the Netherlands, they are shipped as waste. But from Belgium, we receive them as a product, and from another country we receive them as a battery which needs to be inspected. And for each category, there are a lot of different administration rules which you have to follow. Even though, in the end, every battery was the same and has the same problem. All that paperwork adds up.”
 

Safety first

Soon the new industry directive PGS37 which prescribes the storage of batteries inside buildings will come into effect. Baltus thinks that this new regulation is unclear about levels of safety. “In that directive, they're saying 'ok, just put it in your building in a safe way’, and that's it. But what does that mean? I can think of many rules that could be specified. For example: don't store batteries too high from the floor, and use safe racks,” Baltus says. “And make sure you don't have broken lights in your building! Those things should be standard practice for everyone storing high voltage batteries, and if the law doesn't clarify it, perhaps it should be put down in a standard.”
 

There is a standard (NEN 9140) on disconnecting a battery from an electric car, but it does not accommodate the ‘how-to’ on opening or disassembling the battery. EcarACCU came up with their own method of checking the battery in the most efficient and safe way. “It took us two years of trial and error to develop these methods, because between electric car brands, there are many differences in the batteries they use,” explains Baltus.

 

 

He goes on: “Right now batteries used in the consumer market all have the same configuration, 7S or 14S. If you look at batteries used for electric cars, they all have different configurations. If that were standardized, in the same way consumer batteries are, it would be a lot easier to reuse all these batteries.”

Sharing knowledge

So, as much as he admires Elon Musk, is he willing to walk the talk when it comes to sharing their proprietary knowledge? “You can look at this from two sides. On one hand, we actually made our own standards, and it's hard to share your own standards, because it's your advantage in the market. But on the other hand, I would like to help people to disassemble store batteries in the same way. For example, I think it's really dangerous when people buy a battery online, transport it and disassemble it in their own, maybe unsafe, way.”

“We want to share our experience with others, to create new standards for the whole of Europe."

Jasper Baltus,
EcarACCU, Zwaag, the Netherlands

EcarACCU’s core business is collecting rejected batteries from all over Europe. They then check and dismantle the battery and select components to be reused. “These components go to our partners and get a second life, for example in boats, or for home storage, or for grid stabilization….but the thing is, because we are so innovative there are no standards yet. At least not for the second life part.”

First steps towards standardization

“Maybe it will be a good idea to go to our national standards organization, NEN, and say 'hey, let's have a meeting with stakeholders.' Some of these stakeholders could be car dealerships, but also the scrap dealers, the transport companies, and maybe the designers of battery storage units. Basically all the companies involved in the same activity as us.”

 

First contact has already been established. “My experience with NEN is quite good. I was invited to give a presentation about my company, and about the problems we have with standardization, or the lack of standardization actually. And they're really willing to help. I have already received some emails about how we're going to discuss these problems, how we're going to discuss the standards I use in my company, and how we can turn them into standards, for all of Europe.”

 

He leans back, and laughs. “That's my ambition.”

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