Bettering the Lives of Batteries
Batteries power our daily lives. From communications and information technology in phones and laptops, to mobility in cars, motorcycles, and scooters, and beyond, most electronic objects have a battery-powered version. While this has many positive impacts, what we do with the batteries in these objects at the end of their lives still needs some work. Batteries contain many rare earth metals that are difficult to mine and chemicals that are harmful for the planet if not disposed of properly.
Two companies – betteries and Ampersand – are taking on the challenge of finding solutions that keep the batteries in use in a different form as long as possible.
The betteries mission is to upcycle all electric vehicle batteries into affordable power systems to avert climate change and protect valuable resources.
It has developed a sustainable 2 kWh to 240 kWh power system based on second-life electric vehicle batteries. Second-life batteries are batteries that have reached the end of their “automotive” life but still have a residual capacity of about 70-80%. This means they can be used for a different purpose after their initial lifecycle has come to an end. The betteries battery solutions are mobile, modular, multi-purpose, and connected. They are equally suitable for productive use in developing countries as well as developed economies.
“The impact is cumulative: With each fuel-based generator or propulsion system replaced, we boost the circular economy by providing valuable 2nd life applications for EV batteries whilst replacing carbon intensive technologies.”
– betteries website
- Replacing engine/generator sets (gensets): 1 betterGen =10 tons of CO2 avoidance
- Powering e-mobility: 1 betterDrive = 14 tons of CO2 avoidance
- Optimizing mini grids: storing solar power in its betterStore replaces generators.
Expanding infrastructure and upgrading technology to provide clean and more efficient energy in all countries will encourage growth and help the environment. According to the company website, betteries’ betterPack can be stacked to provide 2.3-9.2 kWh energy and 2-5 kW power, making it a sustainable source of power for DC appliances or small electric vehicles. Every betterPack using second-life batteries replaces a fossil fuel option, directly delivering positive impact. This addresses Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 – Affordable and clean energy. It also impacts SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities, SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production, and 13 – Climate action.
Ampersand is a leading battery-swap energy network for light vehicles. It has developed a battery pack, battery-swap network, and software back end to replace fuel for the world’s largest motorcycle market segment: 100-150 cc motorbikes in the Global South (broadly the regions of Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania). Motorbikes powered by Ampersand cost less to buy, fuel and operate than petrol motorbikes, without sacrificing performance, convenience, or reliability. And they are electric. Ampersand-powered motorbikes already cover 600,000 km a month in East Africa.
Its system works like this:
- A moto driver purchases or leases a pay-as-you-drive Ampersand e-moto
- When the battery is low, the driver visits an Ampersand battery-swap station
- Ampersand exchanges the depleted battery for a new battery; the driver pays for the energy used
- The driver continues their day, swapping batteries when required.
“Renting a charged battery from Ampersand saves drivers over $500 per year. Each battery delivers around 60-90 km of range and requires swapping out less often than drivers commonly refuel with petrol. It’s all made possible by Ampersand’s unique Amper-Ops connected network of smart batteries and swap stations, and a vehicle drivetrain tailored for customers’ needs and African roads.”
– Ampersand website
The motorcycles produce 75% less lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than petrol motorbikes using grid power, and over 98% less on renewables. The battery packs are built in Rwanda. There, over half of the vehicles on the road at any one time are motorcycle taxis. But these motorcycles cost a lot to own, burn expensive fuel, and produce a large amount of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
What’s more, the Ampersand website states that, “Many moto-taxi drivers – or “motars” – spend over $11 daily on fuel and vehicle leasing costs, but take home as little as $1.60 to their families each day.” The company estimates that going electric using their system will double a motorcycle taxi driver’s income.
Ampersand recently received a $3.5 million investment from the Ecosystem Integrity Fund (EIF).