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BMW Wants To Use Old Electric Car Batteries To Store Solar Energy

BMW i8 and i3 electric cars
BMW i8 and i3 electric cars
Andre Tauber

BERLIN — BMW plans to introduce its electric i3 car this year, which raises the question of what’s going to happen to the old batteries that, for the purpose of powering electric cars, must be discarded well before they have actually been depleted. It’s a riddle the car company is hoping to solve together with the question of how to store surplus renewable energy.

The maker of “the ultimate driving machine” says that one of the goals when it comes to old batteries is to use them in electric car charging stations or in solar panels. The company is working with the electricity company Vattenfall to research how that could be possible and practical.

The move toward more renewable energy sources over the past several years has led to a situation where there is too much energy available on sunny days, and not enough storage capacity. The same problem exists for wind energy.

In the future, the old batteries from electric cars could be used to store the electricity from wind and solar installations.

The effort could be worth it for green energy producers. Using the old batteries this way would mean an ability to charge higher prices because they would be storing it for times when demand is high but supply is low.

Lithium-Ion battery cells for BMW i3 - Photo: RudolfSimon

At the same time, pressure is increasing for renewable energy producers to find their own customers. Politicians have been discussing abolishing the programs that they have in place to guarantee them a market.

Technologically speaking, there is no problem with using old car batteries to store renewable energy, because the life of the batteries is much longer than the amount of time they can be used to power electric cars. Once the batteries have less than 80 percent storage capacity, they can no longer be used for cars, but they can very well be used for other purposes.

“Instead of sending them to be recycled immediately, these batteries are ideal for reuse,” says Ulrich Kranz, senior vice president of BMW i. “BMW i is also making a major contribution to the use of renewable energy.”

Several pilot projects have already been successful in Germany, the U.S. and China. In Berlin, used batteries from the test fleet were used as buffer storage for a solar energy installation.

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Migrant Lives

The Damning Proof Of Migrants Tortured In Libya — And Italy's Complicity

The Refugees in Libya movement has posted shocking images to awaken our consciences. But here, all is silent, and the hope for humanity is entrusted to a Europe that is reborn from the bottom up.

Aereal photograph of Staff members of the desert patrols of the Libyan Illegal Immigration Control Department and some stranded African migrants at the Libya-Tunisia border

Staff members of the desert patrols of the Libyan Illegal Immigration Control Department and some stranded African migrants are seen at the Libya-Tunisia border

Mattia Ferrari


TURIN — "Let me die."

These were the desperate words of yet another migrant tortured by the Libyan mafia. Like many others from sub-Saharan Africa, this teenager had to leave his homeland wrecked by global apathy and injustice. And like many others, he ended up in the hands of a local criminal organization, who imprisoned him in one of the notorious camps in the Libyan town of Bani Walid.

We know of his fate from videos of his torture, which were shot in order to extort ransom from his family back home. A social movement led by the migrants, "Refugees in Libya," has been sharing this footage in hopes of awakening Europe's conscience.

But on this side of the Mediterranean, all is silent.

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