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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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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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