With a wave of used lithium-ion batteries coming to market, UL is preparing to issue second-life standards for safety, performance, and durability.
Plug-in electrified vehicle batteries are being used for emergency back-up power and as the foundation for startups of new subsidiaries like Tesla Energy. A Forbes writer spoke with Ken Boyce, UL’s principal engineering director of energy and power technologies, on the role the organization will be playing in the future of second-life, or repurposed, PEV batteries.
UL (Underwriters Laboratories) conducted over 96,000 product evaluations last year, and is considered to be on a similar level as the SAE International (Society of Automotive Engineers) and the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) for evaluating durability and safety in new technologies. UL is expected to soon launch standards for evaluating second-life PEV lithium ion batteries.
Boyce said that UL has been studying applications for second-life batteries for years. The organization sees a need for a lifecycle management program for an asset with much potential. There are a number of challenges to overcome in repurposing used PEV batteries for the power grid, whether it’s on-site or at utility scale, he said.
UL is developing a protocol where used PEV batteries will be put through a series of tests to ensure safe applications. A surveillance program is being established to make sure safety standards are followed to “establish confidence that the ongoing program is the same as what we have run through in the test program,” he said. “That’s how the certification program generally works.”
The usual destructive product tests used by UL can’t be deployed with used PEV batteries. In this case, UL is assembling advanced analytical techniques to understand the performance and durability of the battery. UL will be working with stakeholder parties in this phase, including national laboratories, academia, industry experts, and the user community. Once a set of standards are approved, the UL will release them into the public domain to inform everyone in the stakeholder community about the requirements.
That won’t be the end of the process for UL. Online testing will come next, through internal testing programs being adopted by several corporations. UL can add the credibility of external, independent testing to the process.
The next step will be to work battery makers and other manufacturers to see how the protocols are being followed. “We work with manufacturers and go into locations and do audits to establish confidence that products meet requirements,” he said.