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GM and ABB demonstrate community energy storage system built from 5 used Volt batteries; Duke Energy testing

GM and ABB partnered to produce a prototype back-up power storage unit that repackages five used Volt batteries into a modular unit that becomes an uninterruptible power supply and grid power balancing system. Click to enlarge.

During a symposium for the media on GM’s electrification efforts, including a preview of the Spark EV to be unveiled at the LA Auto Show in two weeks, General Motors and ABB showed and demonstrated a new grid distributed micro-storage (at grid scale) system—i.e., a community energy storage system—built from five used Chevrolet Volt batteries.

The modular air-cooled unit, which can provide about 25 kW of power for about 2 hours (50 kWh of energy capacity), is envisioned to be paired with a neighborhood transformer, said Dan Sowder from Duke Energy, which is putting one of the units into test. Duke supports about 4.2 customers per transformer, so this system would benefit those four customers with respect to the value stream, he suggested.

GM and ABB suggest that the modular unit is capable of providing two hours of electricity needed by three to five average American homes.

The system is built with the cells which are removed and repackaged from the T-pack used in the Volt. While the pack in the Volt is liquid cooled, the repurposed cells, given the duty cycle of their new applications, can be air-cooled. (For one thing, each pack only operates at 5 kW, as opposed to their 111 kW output in the Volt.)

The system can be connected to single phase or three phase; the round-trip efficiency is just under 86%, ABB said. The inverter, supplied by ABB, communicates with the utility—Duke Energy in the test case—and the battery management system provided by GM.

The system is designed to work autonomously; in addition, the utility could override for manual dispatch.

A prototype of the uninterruptible power supply and grid power balancing system was demonstrated during GM’s Electrification Experience, powering all the support lighting and audiovisual equipment in an “off-grid” structure used for the event.

During the demonstration, the energy storage system was run in a “remote power back-up” mode where 100% of the power for the facility came from Volt batteries through ABB’s Energy Storage Inverter system. A similar application could be used to power a group of homes or small commercial buildings during a power outage; allow for storage of power during inexpensive periods for use during expensive peak demand; or help make up for gaps in solar, wind or other renewable power generation.

GM’s battery development extends throughout the entire life of the battery, including secondary use. In many cases, when an EV battery has reached the end of its life in an automotive application, only 30 percent or less of its life has been used. This leaves a tremendous amount of life that can be applied to other applications like powering a structure before the battery is recycled.

—Pablo Valencia, GM senior manager of battery lifecycle management

GM and ABB last year demonstrated how a Chevrolet Volt battery pack could be used to collect energy and feed it back to the grid and deliver supplemental power to homes or businesses.

ABB’s research center in Raleigh, NC, conducted the research and development, and ABB’s Medium Voltage business unit in Lake Mary, Fla., is managing the proof-of-concept testing, market research and product development. As the world’s largest EV fast-charging company and leader in smart grid and energy storage, ABB works with other auto companies, battery manufacturers and utilities to help make electric power and industrial operations more productive and efficient.



I believe that there is a mistake in your article. I believe that the volt battery is rated at 16kw in the volt application not 111 kW. also how "used" were these batteries? 1 year, 2year or + years?

Also were can I get more "technical" information on the test?


If the battery in the Volt last 7-10 years, and sales are slow now, and not likely to be significant until 2030, this is a convenient way to delay any impact that batteries might have on fossil fuels usage related to electricity production until much further into the future. It's funny how an apparently green test is really a delaying tactic.

Car batteries require high energy and power density. This is not a requirement of stationary batteries. Cost is a greater driver for renewable storage.

I understand that big changes in energy use and sourcing has a lot of people whose wealth depends on fossil energy nervous. Us poor people don't care about you wealthy investers however. Investers have other people do the work, and poor people work.


"In many cases, when an EV battery has reached the end of its life in an automotive application, only 30 percent or less of its life has been used."

Getting the remaining 70% value out of EV batteries is a key to making EVs economical quickly.


Charlie, the Volt battery pack is 16kwh, not 16kw


what is it going to gain you to power 4 houses for a couple hours?.. I think the system would be better spent doing grid stabilization at 400kW for very short periods.



As stated by Davemart, the pack is rated 16 kWh energy, and is designed to provide up 111 kW of power in normal operation.

It seems they have derated the pack to 10 kWh for this application, and the power is probably limited by the power electronics rather than actual battery capability.

86% round trip efficiency is really impressive here though!

I wish they could elaborate on the actual control system used to manage to the different state of health among the packs. I can't imagine they're all at the same health at the moment.

Henry Gibson

This is recycling of value not the GM shredders recyling of particles. Many ZEBRA batteries have been shredded instead of being used for solar energy. ..HG..

Henry Gibson

A portable generator can charge the batteries for longer periods of service. ..HG..

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