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San Diego-based company providing a 'second life' for retired electric vehicle batteries

Smartville Inc. launched its product in Miramar last week, harnessing solar energy to be stored on retired electric vehicle batteries as EV production climbs.

MIRAMAR, Calif. — With the rising number of electric vehicles on the road, many are wondering what will be done with the influx of retired electric vehicle batteries. Last week, Smartville Inc., a local company, launched its product providing a 'second life' to those batteries.

The batteries are packaged and placed on the side of a commercial building in Miramar, where excess solar energy from the solar panels on the roof is stored in the batteries until it's needed. The batteries can then be used overnight when there's no solar energy being collected or in the event of a brownout or blackout, therefore reducing the building's dependence on the electric grid.

“This has been the goal from day one," said Evan Bierman, Chief Operating Officer of Smartville Inc. "To be able to better use second life batteries, reduce emissions and bring a cleaner future along with U.S. domestic manufacturing to the United States and to San Diego.”

Smartville is repurposing Nissan and Tesla electric vehicle batteries as the number of registered EVs continues to soar. California has more registered electric vehicles than any other state, and batteries need to be replaced if they’re not at peak performance due to normal wear and tear. But those batteries can still function at a good level (between 50 and 75 percent of their peak usage), before needing to be recycled.

“That battery can still be used for a long time," Bierman added. "So, what we do instead of recycling or throwing it away, we’re using that battery to provide a service. We are harvesting excess green solar energy and putting it on the grid to help reduce emissions and to help stabilize the grid.”

 “Eighteen percent of new vehicle sales in California are electric vehicles and that number is rising," said David Hochschild, the Chair of the California Energy Commission. "We’re putting almost a thousand electric vehicles a day on the road in California, and we’re manufacturing over 2,000 electric vehicles a day here in our state. So this is filling a very important kind of hole in the mosaic.” 

The California Energy Commission provided funding for the project and Cleantech San Diego, a local non-profit, also connected the start-up to additional funding and resources. 

“Adding one and one together we see a large supply flow of retired batteries," CEO of Smartville, Antoni Tong told CBS 8. "To give you an idea, nationwide by 2030 we have about an annual supply of 100-gigawatt hours worth of batteries. Those can be put in a good place to provide residual value such as stabilizing the grid and provide businesses energy storage they need.”

With a successful launch in the bag, Smartville hopes to fully commercialize the process in the next year across the state and eventually across the nation.

“Eventually, EV adoption goes beyond California," added Tong. "We have the east coast, we have the Pacific Northwest, we're going to set up posts for repurposing those batteries and providing energy storage in return.”

The process not only provides a smarter option for the batteries after their peak but before recycling. It helps put less stress on the grid and can be replicated on a larger scale for other local commercial buildings. 

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