Lithium ion battery packs that power some electrified vehicles could end up feeding juice into the electrical grid -- a development that could cut EV ownership costs.
Although the electrified vehicle market is still in its infancy, automakers and power companies are experimenting with second-life uses for the batteries once they're retired from the road.
Battery experts say the shelf life of a lithium ion battery in an EV is around 10 years, and automakers such as General Motors and Nissan are pondering what to do with still-useful units.
Used lithium ion batteries have around 70 percent of their capacity remaining at the end of their vehicle stints. If automakers retained ownership, they could then sell the batteries after they are no longer usable in vehicles, recouping part of the initial battery cost.
"From an environmental picture standpoint, you need to think about the sustainability of everything you're doing. You need to focus on the broader picture," said Pablo Valencia, GM senior manager of battery lifecycle management. "What we're doing right now is preparing for that broader picture -- getting awareness up, both from a customer standpoint and also an industry standpoint, so that the energy storage industry is thinking about secondary use."
GM and Nissan say having secondary uses for Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf batteries can help market the vehicles and add to their residual value, but it's still too early to tell if consumers will see lower prices. A GM spokesman said the company is figuring out how a potential business model would work.
It's possible, the spokesman said, that GM could "provide some sort of monetary payment" to the consumer once the battery is no longer useful in a vehicle. But nothing has been finalized.
"Ideally, EVs become more attractive to the consumer from a pricing [standpoint], or secondary option that might be available to them," said Brad Smith, director of 4R US at Nissan North America.