Rather than premature recycling, a prototype energy storage system being trialed in India is using Audi e-tron battery modules to supply power to small businesses.

24 March, 2021

There is no denying the importance of recycling materials in production and manufacturing aof the drive for sustainability, but a new trial conducted by German-Indian startup Nunam and its cofounder, Prodip Chatterjee, has been investigating another ‘step’ in the lifecycle of some modern components.

If the name Nunam sounds familiar it’s because we have previously reported on its first initiative supported by the Audi Environmental Foundation that has seen the ‘second life’ applications of mainly used laptop batteries to be used to power lights and recharge mobile phones in some parts of India. In what is essentially the second project phase, the eleven-person local Nunam team is extending the possible applications and using two considerably more powerful battery modules from Audi e-tron test vehicles in a solar nanogrid at a local energy provider in Uttar Pradesh. 

“In parts of Uttar Pradesh, hours-long power outages regularly make life difficult for the people who live there,” says Nunam co-founder, Prodip Chatterjee. While visiting family, he came up with the idea to complement the electricity supply with mobile second-life energy storage systems to ensure that important everyday items such as lamps continue to work. This new prototype currently allows roughly 50 shopkeepers and small businesses to continue working after dark.

“Second-life batteries offer immense opportunities for greater sustainability, especially if they are powered by green electricity,” says Chatterjee.

“We prevent the premature recycling of intact battery modules while ensuring that people can get cheap access to electricity.” 

At the end of their useful life in the vehicle, batteries of electric cars are likely to still retain a large portion of their performance capability. The technical condition of the individual battery modules is first checked in terms of capacity, voltage curve, and temperature distribution.
The e-tron battery units replace four lead-acid batteries in the solar nano grid that wear out much more quickly. The prototype is connected to the internet via a SIM card and regularly transmits data that Nunam evaluates in order to draw conclusions about the state of (dis)charge of the battery. 

The results to date are very encouraging with the fully charged modules able to supply as many as 50 shops independently with electricity for LED lights for up to a week. 

“As a result of the increasing electrification of the global vehicle fleet, we need to address possible purposes for the batteries of electric cars,” says Rüdiger Recknagel, Managing Director of the Audi Environmental Foundation. “By supporting Nunam, we want to set an example. For one, we want to prove that modern technology can be sustainable if you consider not only its initial purpose during development but also a second or even third one.