Carwatt presents a unique automotive application for second-life batteries from electric vehicles
On the sidelines of the COP21 summit, in the Solutions Gallery running from 2 to 9 December 2015 in Le Bourget near Paris, Carwatt and its partners —Renault, Paris City Council, BPI France, the Alès École des Mines Engineering School, and the Bobigny Business Campus — are showing a very special electric Renault Trafic. This prototype vehicle, the only one of kind in the world, is powered by second-life lithium-ion batteries recycled from Renault electric cars.
Circular economy at work with electric vehicles
When, over time, the batteries of a Renault electric vehicle fall the performance threshold specified for their initial automotive power duty (around 75% of initial capacity), they can still provide valuable service in “second-life” applications before end-of-life disposal at a recycling centre. Experiments are already under way on power storage applications, for example.
I see more electric cars on the road every day now, they are no longer the novelty they used to be. In my area I see many Nissan Leafs and a few ZOEs. And, of course, it seems like the Mitsubish Outlander PHEV is everywhere!
I saw my first Tesla Model S in my hometown of Northampton a few months back – that seems like a milestone of sorts.
A week later I was travelling down to London and called in to the London Gateway services for a charge. By the time I had finished and was packing up to leave I had been joined by an Outlander and a BMW i3, all 3 cars lined up in a row at the chargepoints. Hopefully such a tableau will be commonplace in the future.
Of course, it did highlight that only the ZOE has its charging socket at the right end!
A few months back I beat my previous record of driving our ZOE 300 miles in a day by taking it from Northampton to Falmouth and back in a weekend. The occasion was a friend’s 50th birthday party (which I confess took place just a month after mine).
On the whole the journey went pretty well. Although charging points are increasingly busy – for example, an orange BMW i3 was leaving the Cherwell charger just as we arrived – we never had to queue for a charge. However, reliability and availability are still an issue. To start with, the charges at Leigh Delamere and Tiverton started on the third and fourth attempts respectively.
As many EV drivers are aware, the south-west is a charging desert with very few opportunities for rapid charging after you come off the end of the M5. I knew in advance that it would be a stretch to get from Exeter all the way to the Cornwall Services at Victoria without a charge (73 miles) so when planning the route was only nervous about this part.
The following morning we arrived at the Beneluxhaven in Rotterdam around 9am. After going through customs we started on the 225 km (140 miles) drive to my parents in Hardenberg. The weather was fine. Just a few showers lingering but no problems were expected. Holland has one of the best infrastructures in the world with around 10000 11kW AC charge points in a small country. As I knew the locations of some 43kW AC units and the directions I did not buy and load the Benelux maps into the R-Link before setting off. As a result I was relying on my memory and “sense of direction” to find the charge points.
First stop was about 35km from the port at a roadside hotel chain. I completely missed the turn off and before I knew it found myself heading for a big motorway intersection with no easy way of turning around. I stayed on the direction we needed to go for my parents but Zoe started complaining about low battery very soon after. 10 miles later I finally saw a exit and went for it. Thankfully there was a hotel nearby and we pulled in for some free wifi and breakfast to steady the nerves. Zoe was at about 8% battery at this stage.
Making use of the free hotel wifi I bought and downloaded the R-Link map using my laptop. Looking on Google maps it occurred to me that we were only about 6.5km (4 miles) from the next 43kW AC charge point. Feeling better after breakfast and with the maps now loaded in R-Link we set off. We arrived with 4% of battery remaining. Feeling relieved I plugged in, swiped my TheNewMotion card only to find it being rejected!! The 22kW point next to it did the same. So I rang the 24 hour helpdesk and after a few minutes they started the charge remotely. I was told that there may have been a setup mistake on their end and to only use TheNewMotion charge points not their partner companies with my card for the next 24 hours or so.
After 20 minutes we had enough to get to the next stop. A shopping centre in Utrecht. Sadly, my card again did not work. When the charge could not be started remotely I had enough. The shopping was abandoned and we went home using the FastNed network. Since these chargers use a smart phone app instead of a card there was no problem. The chargers did cost more than TheNewMotion ones but a working charger is more important. After 2 stops at De Kroon, Nieuwegein and Bornheim, Wezep we got to my parents.
The following day I tried out my card at several nearby TheNewMotion chargers and a partner company one and had no issues. I also checked with the partner company in Belgium (The Blue Corner) to make sure my card was in their system. It was. Both TheNewMotion and The Blue Corner were very quick to respond to emails and Twitter help requests and thanks to their swift response the holiday could now truly begin!
The days in Holland were spend doing family visits, enjoying the weather and an occasional spot of shopping and Zoe was a delight to drive on the smooth Dutch roads. One of the longer trips I did was a 100 mile round trip to Groningen to visit a friend. I drove the speed limit and not very economical but using a nearby 11kW charger meant I had no worries about range. We also did a day trip to a castle in Germany. We charged up just before the border and did not need to find a charger in Germany.
The 9 days at my parents flew and soon it was time to start the next part of our holiday. 5 days along the coast in Ostend, Belgium!
To be continued
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