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Toyota to recycle hybrid and EV batteries for renewable energy use

Breakthrough technology aims to give old cells new life in power storage

Toyota and partner Jera are hoping to establish a new technology that will enable storage batteries to operate more efficiently by combining different kinds of cells.   © Reuters

TOKYO/NAGOYA -- Toyota Motor has agreed to partner with Jera, a joint fuel-procurement venture between Tokyo Electric Power and Chubu Electric Power, in a bid to transform old batteries used for electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles into power storage system for renewable energy, Nikkei has learned.

The new storage system will consist of a lithium-ion battery and a nickel-metal hydride battery. The two companies' objective is to establish a new technology that will enable storage batteries to operate more efficiently by combining different kinds of batteries.

Toyota and Jera will target developing the storage battery by the end of this fiscal year. Then, in fiscal 2022, the companies aim to connect the storage to the power grid so that they can conduct technical verification for practical use.

The system is expected to mainly be used for storing electricity generated by power plants using solar, wind and other renewable sources. The amount of electricity generated by such power plants changes greatly depending on weather. By being connected to renewable-energy power plants, the storage system can store and supply electricity flexibly according to the changing levels of supply and demand.

The project comes as the number of used batteries from electric vehicles as well as hybrids is expected to jump over the coming years in Japan.

According to the nation's automobile industry associations, EVs owned in Japan numbered 117,000 in 2020. For hybrids, the number is 9.28 million -- about 80 times higher than EVs. If Toyota, the largest hybrid producer, succeeds in developing the new technology, it would boost momentum toward large-scale used battery recycling.

A large amount of spent in-vehicle batteries are expected to accumulate after 2025. If the manufacturing cost of storage batteries is reduced by making use of these spent batteries, it will also help expand renewable energy market in Japan. In addition, reusing spent batteries is environmentally friendly as it eliminates greenhouse gas emissions used to dispose of the old cells.

In the automotive industry, Nissan Motor and China's BYD are also working on utilizing used electric-vehicle batteries.

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