So what can be done with old batters from Chevrolet Volts and other electric vehicles?

ABB may have an answer.

ABB researchers based in Raleigh have teamed with General Motors to develop an uninterruptable power supply from Chevy Volt batteries. They see it as a way to funnel energy safely into power grids and to serve as a backup power system.

The two firms demonstrated the power supply on Thursday in San Francisco.

They say their project has developed a modular unit capable of supplying backup power for two hours worth of electricity to as many as five homes.

“GM’s battery development extends throughout the entire life of the battery, including secondary use,” said Pablo Valencia, GM senior manager of battery lifecycle management. “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.” 

ABB’s research center in Raleigh spearheaded the project.

“We showed today how fast this research concept is turning into reality,” said Allen Burchett, ABB’s senior vice president for Business Development in North America. “The ABB-GM Volt battery system is the world’s first use of car batteries as possible back-up power for homes and other commercial uses. We will be installing it on the grid soon to complete the technical evaluation, and this will tell us all what smart grid applications are possible, like back-up power, reducing energy cost, strengthening utilities’ distribution systems and storing surplus renewable energy.”

ABB operates its North American headquarters in Cary.