Problem description

Battery Pilot will aim at demonstrating that the DigiPrime platform can unlock a sustainable business case targeting the remanufacturing and re-use of second life Li-Ion battery cells with a cross-sectorial approach linking the e-mobility sector and the renewable energy sector, specifically focusing on solar and wind energy applications.

Challenges (referenced KPI)

The battery pack is the most important component of a hybrid and full electric vehicle (H&EV), making up more than one third of the cost of the vehicle itself. Unavoidable chemical and physical degradation of the cells forces battery packs to a performance fade over time. EVs battery packs have an average lifespan of 8 to 10 years, during which their actual capacity degrades below the 80% of the initial capacity, requiring pack substitution. Packs which are not anymore suitable for traction purposes preserve high value, since ageing and failure of cells is an uncertain process and in post-use modules both strongly compromised cells as well as poorly degraded cells are found. Therefore, some cells/modules would still feature suitable residual performance to be re-used, after characterization, in less-demanding second-life stationary application, as Energy Storage Systems (ESS). However, the cost of new Li-Ion batteries prevents from implementing this solution at large scale. This is a currently untapped opportunity for an innovative circular economy business case that will be demonstrated within this pilot.

Overall approach (focus on the innovation sources)

For its high remaining value, both in terms of availability of precious and critical raw materials (as lithium and cobalt), several solutions have been investigated to preserve post-use Li-Ion battery value. The two most common approaches are:

  • Open loop recycling: to apply pyro-metallurgical processes for cobalt (and rarely lithium) recycling;
  • Direct re-use of battery packs: to directly reuse the battery pack in for stationary applications.

However, the lack of information sharing and of a structured reverse logistics value chain causes a dramatic value drop in the currently exploited circular economy strategies. In fact, the second-life strategy for a battery pack is decided mainly in function of its State-Of-Health (SOH), constantly monitored during the use phase by the Battery Management System (BMS). However, these data are currently unexploited and expensive testing procedures have to be performed to estimate Li-Ion battery cells/modules SOH. The availability of in-use data would support faster prediction of battery cells state-of-heath and reduce the characterization costs. Moreover, managing data on the battery pack configuration would make it possible to perform non-destructive de- and remanufacturing processes and deliver to the customer a battery quality certification, increasing the added-value of the second life applications.

Use-cases and involved sectors (input and output sectors)

Use-case 1
CE Strategy: Remanufacturing
Input Sector: Automotive
Output Sector: Renewable energy

Use-case 2
CE Strategy: Remanufacturing
Input Sector: Renewable energy
Output Sector: Renewable energy

Use-case 3
CE Strategy: Remanufacturing
Input Sector: Automotive
Output Sector: Automotive

Use-case 4
CE Strategy: Recycling
Input Sector: Automotive, Renewable energy
Output Sector: Raw materials

Involved DigiPrime services

The most relevant value-chain oriented services aim to:

  • product information management and data collection on post-use Li-Ion batteries about their use phase in order to enable monitoring and full traceability of its life-cycle;
  • define a sustainable value network and reverse logistics configuration of the post-use battery supply chain;
  • monitoring of emerging limitations and barriers to Li-Ion battery related circular second-life business.

The most relevant operational services aim to:

  • collect product data on post-use Li-Ion batteries about their use phase in order to enable monitoring and full traceability of its life-cycle;
  • elaborate and analyse various data collected about post-use batteries to predict the conditions of the battery packs, modules and cells;
  • define a Decision Support System to identify the best disassembly and remanufacturing strategy, given the post-use Li-Ion battery conditions.

Detailed description of the approach

As the proactive exploitation of the DigiPrime platform enables the car-monitored SOH tracing and availability, less testing is needed to assess the residual capacity of the battery. Moreover, by knowing the structure of the battery packs, a decision support system can be implemented to adjust the de-and remanufacturing strategy accordingly and select the most proper cells for re-assembly second-life modules, thus unlocking a systematic circular value chain for Li-ion battery cells re-use. Furthermore, excessively degraded cells which cannot be re-used can be sent to high-value recycling, based on the knowledge of their material compositions.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme, DT-ICT-07-2018-2019 “Digital Manufacturing Platforms for Connected Smart Factories” topic, under Grant Agreement ID 873111