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Second-life, Mobile Battery Stations Could Improve EV Charging

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【Summary】In Europe, Renault is pioneering second-life battery solutions through the E-STOR system. The business sold over 24,000 EVs in the region during 2015. Now it needs supporting infrastructure to keep the cars going.

Michael Cheng    Sep 08, 2017 9:00 AM PT
Second-life, Mobile Battery Stations Could Improve EV Charging

Lately, the lifecycle of batteries has been the focus of EV manufacturers, as consumption of portable power cells continue to increase rapidly. Automakers are looking to second-life batteries to decrease the cost of acquiring and using lithium-ion units. 

FreeWire Technologies, a San Francisco-based startup that specializes in second-life battery stations, is leading the application of mobile energy systems in the US. The company distributes power from second-life power cells via compact charging carts the size of washing machines.

Battery-backed, Fast-charging

The startup's mobile charging stations leverage used EV batteries to power its systems, making them up to six times cheaper to operate. As a full-service EV charging solution, FreeWire could easily deploy a fleet of charging carts in parking lots to power several EVs simultaneously. Unlike traditional EV charging stations, the carts approach the cars – not the other way around.

"FreeWire's hardware and software technologies are well positioned to play a disruptive role in the growth of EVs and Distributed Energy," explained Forrest North, VP of System Integration at FreeWire Technologies.

So how does FreeWire's second-life charging carts help local grids handle high power demand? Imagine a fleet of Tesla Model 3 EVs in the same station, instantly consuming loads of power from the grid. This scenario is becoming increasingly common in cities, as more people trade in their internal combustion engine-powered cars for EVs.

To safely cater to the fleet of EVs without affecting mainstream power allocation, the startup's systems gather power from 120V AC or 240V AC outlets (depending on the location's electrical standards), when large amounts of electricity is generated by the plant. The power is harvested in second-life power cells, where it is stored and eventually distributed to EVs.

FreeWire's charging hubs are capable of handling fast-charging for quick service. The company's mobile charging stations were recently used by Uber, as a solution for avoiding high infrastructure costs associated with upgrades to existing systems.

Renault's E-STOR System

In Europe, Renault is pioneering second-life battery solutions through the E-STOR system. The business sold over 24,000 EVs in the region during 2015. Now it needs supporting infrastructure to keep the cars going.

EV owners in the EU lack confidence to take on highways without accessible battery-charging stations. To address such concerns, the automaker is expanding its E-STOR stations. So far, the group has installed economical, second-life charging hubs in Belgium and Germany. In the UK, Renault partnered with Connected Energy for the installation of the stations within the local area.

"With the E-STOR system, the batteries are recharged at low power, and the stored energy is then released at high power. It thus becomes possible to offer electric vehicle charging services in locations where constructing a high power connection to the power grid would be very costly," said Matthew Lumsden, Managing Director of Connected Energy.

E-STOR systems are equipped with two energy-saving solutions for streamlined battery charging. For city grids, the stations are capable of reducing overload by addressing supply and demand. Lastly, the cutting-edge technology offers extended use for power cells with limited applications, before they are recycled. 

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