German startup Voltfang has developed an revolutionary system that repurposes outdated EV batteries and supplies essential electrical energy storage in addition. We converse to the founders, who simply took residence the Inexperienced Alley Award for round economic system innovation
It feels like one thing to keep away from on a darkish evening – however Voltfang, a startup whose title means ‘catching energy’ in German, reckons its method to vitality and recycling will gentle the way in which in future.
The enterprise has simply received the 2022 Green Alley award, which recognises European startups which can be pioneering round innovation. And the founders are charged up.
Outdated electrical car (EV) batteries are usually an environmental nightmare, being harder to recycle than these from common vehicles, regardless of the dear cobalt, lithium and nickel they comprise. Whereas major recycling facilities have launched within the EU this month, experts estimate that solely 8-23 per cent of important supplies are presently being recycled. In the meantime, the inconsistent nature of renewables signifies that electrical energy networks can not all the time provide companies with uninterrupted inexperienced energy – particularly throughout peak demand.
Step up Voltfang, which desires to repurpose used EV batteries into vitality storage units for enterprise. That is essential in 3 ways, explains co-founder David Oudsandjii. First, it reuses a largely untapped waste stream. The vehicles might have been scrapped, says Oudsandjii, however the batteries nonetheless work – lots of the autos are from check fleets, as an example, and others will be repaired. Second, it helps companies retailer electrical energy for instances of peak want or low provide, and it’s additionally an essential a part of the broader transition to greener vitality manufacturing, by which decentralised storage methods will play an essential position.
Voltfang’s purpose is to construct a ‘second life’ into each EV battery. “One thing like cobalt, which is efficacious, is extracted. And the remaining is simply waste. There isn’t a subsequent step. It’s an enormous drawback,” explains Oudsandjii.
As densely-populated areas just like the Netherlands are seeing, the extra inexperienced energy used, the extra the demand on the electrical energy grid. Applied sciences similar to warmth pumps may change fuel for home and business heating, however they nonetheless want electrical energy to work. With photo voltaic, wind and wave energy, when there are peaks of provide that the grid can’t address, the ability is wasted. On the flip facet, generally it’s cloudy and never windy in any respect. Consequently, specialists say that efficient, native energy storage is significant for any inexperienced transition away from fossil fuels.
Voltfang itself was impressed by a home scenario. Associates from their engineering pupil days, David Oudsandji, Roman Alberti and Afshin Doostdar arrange a photo voltaic panel array atop an outdated campervan, with the intention to generate energy to cost their gadgets.
“Within the meantime, the daddy of Roman stated he wanted a battery for residence storage of his solar energy,” says Oudsandji. So that they began experimenting with utilizing an outdated electrical automobile battery to retailer the vitality. “We constructed it in a single week, didn’t sleep that a lot however had it up and operating. Afterwards, we stated we need to do one thing with goal, to allow a future price residing. We made a plan and based Voltfang.”
Now they consider their know-how might be most useful for business and industrial purposes, similar to factories with peak provide wants, and even electrical car charging stations removed from the grid that may be prohibitively pricey to attach.
“We’re specializing in the business and industrial market, the place we are able to [enable] extra self-sufficiency and in addition [facilitate] peak shaving [levelling out peaks in electricity usage] and cargo shifting,” he explains.
“We may also help electrical mobility as a result of, usually, charging stations want a grid extension that’s extremely costly and takes a whole lot of time [to build]. With our battery storage, we are able to clean the load and assist charging.”
We need to join all decentralised batteries and make coal vegetation redundant
With the assistance of the Inexperienced Alley Award’s €25,000 (£21,440) prize cash, Voltfang is growing plans for its first manufacturing facility in Aachen, Germany, the place it’s primarily based.
“Sooner or later, we need to join all decentralised batteries and make coal vegetation redundant,” says Oudsandji. “We need to produce greater than 1,000 batteries per yr. This manufacturing facility goes to be totally automated, and we are going to supply the batteries from many producers and automotive firms with dependable provide for the subsequent few years, in Germany largely.”
The startup is presently operating pilots, together with one with exhibition honest stand builder Walbert Schmitz, and making use of to the EU’s funding programme for science and innovation, Horizon Europe, in addition to native innovation funds. In the direction of the top of the yr, Voltfang expects to launch a seed spherical for enterprise capital.
Consultants on the Inexperienced Alley Award, which helps improvements that promote a round economic system, consider the corporate can be each profitable and very important.
Patrick Schulz, CEO of Landbell Group, which runs the award, stated: “Voltfang addresses a significant matter. The variety of electrical vehicles on our roads will improve to 30m by 2030, in response to EU plans, and so will the quantity of waste batteries from these vehicles.”
He added: “What satisfied us about Voltfang’s enterprise thought was that it not solely specialises in making the most effective out of those used batteries, but additionally contributes to closing the hole in our renewable vitality transition…With the Inexperienced Alley Award, we put a highlight on round startups like Voltfang that may make a decisive contribution to our struggle towards local weather change.”
For Oudsandji, Alberti and Doostdar, the award has solely elevated the urge to speed up the enterprise as quick as attainable. “We need to actually assist international locations to make the vitality transition attainable, with renewables,” says Oudsandji. “There’s a want for surge methods however we don’t need to mine ever-more assets. We need to use what’s on the road.”
Primary picture: Michael Fousert