Kia believes sustainability goes beyond selling electric vehicles.
One day, when your Kia EV6 has reached the end of its life, there's a very good chance its battery may end up with a new role. The European subsidiary of the South Korean firm has teamed up with Deutsche Bahn (DB), Germany's railway service, to repurpose used lithium-ion batteries for green energy storage.
"It's more urgent than ever for us to save power," said DB's Berthold Huber. "Our new second-life battery energy storage systems offer a solution that is also sustainable. And that makes it an attractive option for any industry." Instead of disposing of the batteries, they can be utilized for several tasks, such as supplying power to DB's various train and maintenance depots.
Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, DB notes the new battery storage systems will reduce costs, which is important when you're running a company that requires plenty of energy and electricity. The entire project is being run by a startup company called Encore, which will oversee the acquisition of the batteries and more.
Kia dealerships based in Germany will send the batteries to Encore, which examines them with a fine tooth comb. If they pass the necessary safety and quality checks, the usable battery modules are sent off to start their second life as energy storage systems. Those that don't make the cut are sent off for recycling.
These sustainable storage systems will soon be implemented, with the first several hundred being distributed in 2023.
While Kia is plotting to lead the electric vehicle field, the company's European President, Jason Jeong, notes that sustainability stretches beyond EVs. "We're also investing in sustainable solutions, including solutions for batteries once their first life in the vehicle comes to an end."
He added, "This groundbreaking partnership between Kia and DB is proof that the two companies think of batteries as valuable resources in a sustainable circular economy."
But the Korean brand isn't the only automaker making strides in this area. German automaker Audi has embarked on a pilot project with tech company Nunam and hopes to repurpose EV batteries to power rickshaws in India. Ingolstadt's luxury automaker also uses old batteries to store energy at its high-end charging stations.
Volkswagen has gone one step further and established a plant that focuses on recycling EV batteries. Like the previous examples, the company also determines whether the modules can be repurposed for something else but, if not, they're disposed of sustainably.
Getting back to Kia and DB for a moment, it would be great to see a similar initiative employed in the United States. Recently, the state of California urged residents not to charge their electric vehicles during peak hours, giving many a sign of what's to come. According to Hive Power, these problems could be remedied by using batteries for energy storage.
When supply is abundant, the batteries could, theoretically, store the extra electricity. This could later be fed back into the grid during peak periods and even reduce the risk of outages.