Image: © Mariusz Blach / Adobe Stock
As the ban on internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle sales looms, currently expected for 2030, manufacturers and consumers alike are contemplating what lies ahead in a future of electrification. Given that UK electric vehicle (EV) production is expected to reach 1.5 million vehicles by 2040 and unprocessed waste from EV batteries is anticipated to be at a volume of 250,000 tonnes in 2027, it is imperative to find innovative second-life opportunities to extract maximum value from battery packs and tackle the recycling challenge that is only a few years away.
A new feasibility study called CICERO (Classic Car Electrification), undertaken by a consortium of partners including Aspire Engineering, PatrimonyEV, Loughborough University, and HSSMI, with funding from Innovate UK, will examine how EV batteries at the end of their first life could be given a second life in classic or heritage vehicles. At the end of their first life, EV batteries still retain significant value and previous projects have shown that heritage / classic vehicle drive cycle profiles are able to take advantage of higher grades of reconfigured second-life batteries. This is particularly important for the owners of such vehicles, given the availability of carbon fuels will rapidly decline following the ban on new ICE vehicles in 2030.
The concept behind CICERO is straight-forward – tear down batteries that are at the end of first life to a modular level and re-structure them for use in a classic / heritage vehicle. The uniqueness of the project lies in the use of a digital twin, which will enable battery testing to meet end user requirements for a range or power; it will be possible to model different battery grades depending on customer requirements. The use of a digital model will allow vehicle conversion specialists to accurately predict vehicle range and performance using the second-life battery, as well as the components necessary for specific applications.
Moreover, the feasibility study also keeps sustainability in mind by using an innovative strategy, which will enable the use of up to 98% of the battery pack. The aim is to reuse the battery control modules by implementing Controller Area Network (CAN) bus systems into the heritage vehicles, which is expected to help improve efficiency and performance, and avoid balance and weight issues requiring changes to braking and suspension systems.
The five-month project will end with a practical demonstration of a reconfigured second-life automotive Li-ion battery on a test rig. The outcomes of the project are expected to boost the UK battery industry overall through de-risking the disassembly and quality assurance of spent Li-ion battery systems and making it easier to scale up second life remanufacturing, battery reconfiguration and test processes. Furthermore, the repurposing process will generate valuable failure and vehicle collision data, and address OEM liability issues related to battery packs.
The role of HSSMI
Within CICERO, HSSMI will provide project management expertise and a wide range of digital tools. HSSMI’s circular economy expertise will be leveraged to support the reverse logistics and waste optimisation of reused batteries, as well as to develop a strategy for producer liability associated with second-life use of batteries in the context of a novel “installer” actor in the supply chain.
HSSMI, with inputs from other consortium partners, will create flexible disassembly and re-assembly processes, enabling both stations to be quickly re-configured to do either function if necessary. Through robust analysis of the existing facility layouts, footprint and equipment capability, the increased flexibility will allow the site to accommodate increased volumes of batteries within the existing facility, without the need for additional floor area in the immediate future.