I recently took part in a virtual event hosted by American Inno/Business City Journals featuring a panel discussion during which industry experts explored the future of vehicle electrification and how it must be enabled by a multi-faceted network of design, manufacturing and supply chain collaborations. The event, “A Carbon Neutral Future: The Electrification Ecosystem’s Impact on Business and Technology,” explored different aspects of the nascent electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem. These included how battery re-purposing, or what we call “second life,” will contribute to a sustainable, circular economy, and our collective role in enabling new EV technologies such as wireless battery management systems.

Join me in this engaging and thought-provoking discussion with industry experts:

Our talk was set against a fascinating backdrop given that only days earlier Ford Motor Co. introduced a fully-electric Ford F-150 pickup truck, meaning that one of the auto industry’s most iconic and popular models will soon be available without an internal combustion engine.

So how did we, as an industry, help to achieve this milestone? At its most foundational level, it depended on three forces coming together: collaboration, credibility, and trust. As Guy pointed out early in our talk, the proliferation of EVs requires that different corners of the industry begin communicating in ways they may not have thought to consider. And I’m not just talking about chip suppliers sharing their designs with car makers. The supply chain goes much deeper than that, all the way back to the extractive industry that mines battery raw materials, up to the anode, cathode and separator manufacturers, battery providers and those companies creating battery second-life infrastructure.

From the Analog Devices perspective, sharing knowledge not only accelerates innovation, it results in much better products that hit sustainability and safety goals while enabling faster charging, longer range and extended battery life. And we’re seeing that exact scenario play out as car OEMs work ever closer with their battery manufacturers – not just to secure supply but to better understand the entire battery lifecycle from mining to production to recycling and reuse. 

Jake shared that National Grid is seeing similar nontraditional partnerships. This is especially visible in the deepening ties between utilities and the fleet owners that are beginning to swap out diesel trucks for EVs and must overhaul their operational models and recalculate total cost of vehicle ownership. The new calculus alone is having a cascading effect on electric charging infrastructure from the OEMs to the companies designing, building and installing charging stations.

Battery as an Asset

Given that the battery accounts for up to one-third the cost of an EV and can be almost infinitely recycled, it instantly becomes an asset with its own unique value chain. According to Guy, even after 10 to 15 years powering a vehicle, the battery may retain as much as 80 percent of its original value.

This is providing new impetus for companies to optimize battery life, from cradle to grave, by forging alliances that under different circumstances may not make sense. And it raises a series of interesting challenges. How do we trace and document the health of a battery across its life to establish the credibility and trust necessary to build a market for used EVs or re-purposed batteries? How do we track batteries and raw materials across borders? What are the economics of removing and reusing an automotive battery? How can we tie reused batteries into the grid? Where do we store end-of-life batteries?

Wireless BMS Helps Establish Battery Provenance 

Analog Devices is a pioneer in the development of battery management technology and last year introduced the industry’s first wireless battery management system (wBMS) platform for production electric vehicles, which General Motors will use across its Ultium battery platform. The ADI technology helps ensure scalability of the Ultium platform across General Motor’s future lineup, which will encompass different brands and vehicle segments, from work trucks to performance vehicles.

The practical benefits of wBMS technology are numerous and deliver massive improvements to total cost of ownership. It eliminates the traditional wired battery harness, which removes up to 90 percent of the harness wiring and reduces battery pack volume by 15 percent without compromising range or accuracy over the life of the battery. It’s also modular, meaning that car makers like GM can use a common set of battery components across many different EV production models.

Of particular significance to the broader battery ecosystem, wBMS technology can be used to collect huge amounts of data on battery health, measuring and reporting on performance as soon as it’s attached to the battery module. The data can then be monitored remotely throughout the battery lifecycle – from assembly to warehouse and transport through installation, maintenance and into a second-life phase.

The ability to precisely track battery health improves traceability, builds transparency and trust and establishes credibility; not just at the point of original sale but across the entire EV and battery ecosystem. This becomes even more significant as battery longevity increases, with some industry experts predicting we will soon see a million-mile battery. 

According to data Roger shared from Electric Vehicles Outlook, batteries could enable 30 percent of the reductions in carbon emissions in the transport and power sectors by 2030, provide 600 million people with access to electricity and create 10 million safe and sustainable jobs around the world. To realize that potential, we must significantly expand battery manufacturing capacity and invest in the industry value chain. Thankfully, we are doing this together with many, many partners as part of an innovation ecosystem with like-minded goals.     

Watch a video of the full panel discussion here.