A camera moves slowly over a lithium ion battery…
It is not a scene from a movie, but a way to re-use damaged cars. They are often disposed of via energy-intensive scrapping processes — even when many of their parts are still fully functional
Back to the scene. The camera still moves slowly over a lithium ion battery, which has just been extracted from a car that was damaged in an accident. It records the battery type, model, serial number and power class (in kilowatts) and compares this information with an internal database. Next, the battery cover is removed through a semi-automated process. And then comes more analysis. A measuring system records the battery’s current charge level, the functionality of its control electronics and the condition of the individual battery cells. Evaluation software developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU (partner in the EKODA project) then uses this data to create a detailed profile of the battery condition, which is analyzed and used to provide recommendations for reuse. An intact battery that is only three or four years old, for example, could be transferred to a used car of the same type. If the energy storage system is older, it would be possible to use it in a smaller agricultural machine. Even if the battery has multiple defective cells, it may still be suitable for stationary use, for example, as electricity storage in a home photovoltaic system.
The battery system does not need to be thrown away. It gets a second chance that is tailored to its specific abilities. The same principle of examination and reuse can be applied to other car parts too. “The decisive factor here is that the individual parts are disassembled carefully via a standardized and automated process, as we need to find possible ways of reusing the components right from the start,” explains Dr. Uwe Frieß, head of the department for body construction, assembly and disassembly at Fraunhofer IWU.
With funding from a Federal Ministry of Education and Research grant initiative, the EKODA project primarily focuses on the mobility industry. It aims to contribute to the fight against climate change and to address industry issues, such as the scarcity of resources, increased prices for raw materials, supply chain disruption, rising energy costs and the problem of waste disposal, which has still not been resolved. In other words, the goal is to achieve “sustainable mobility through circular value creation” by treating obsolete or defective components as a resource and then finding the most suitable way to reuse or repurpose them once they have undergone evaluation and testing.
Read more about the Ekado project: iwu.fraunhofer.de