Recycled Toyota Car Batteries Power Yellowstone National Park

Recycled Toyota Car Batteries Power Yellowstone National Park

Recycled Toyota Car Batteries Power Yellowstone National Park

How can a car company recycle and repurpose car batteries to power a national park? Ask David Absher of Toyota Motor North American Environmental Sustainability who shared his renewable energy case study on the panel “How the Impact of our Energy Usage Can Save Humanity” during our first-ever EMA IMPACT Summit. David explained how Toyota in partnership with Indy Power Systems installed recycled hybrid batteries at Yellowstone National Park that collect and store energy from solar panels.

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Toyota’s David Absher (left) and Indy Power Systems’ Steve Tolen discuss an innovative distributed energy system now online at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch field campus in Yellowstone National Park.

 

The Challenge

The historic Lamar Buffalo Ranch is located in Yellowstone National Park’s scenic Lamar Valley, approximately 10 miles from the nearest electric service. Prior to this solar energy solution, a propane generator powered the electricity among this Field Campus’ log cabins. But in addition to power, it also created a considerable amount of pollution and noise.

On a parallel track, Toyota has sold over nine million hybrid vehicles around the world (as of April 2016), with over 44% of those being in the US. These first and second-generation hybrid vehicle batteries are nearing the end of life. Current recycling efforts typically recover around 90% of the material mass within the batteries. But, many experts believe that there is potential for extending the hybrid battery life in applications that would typically require a new battery.

The Goal

This project aimed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and noise from the generator while also finding a home for some of Toyota’s recycled batteries. More importantly, the research from this project will facilitate knowledge regarding how Toyota utilizes recycled batteries in the future.

Background: Toyota’s Battery Recycling Program

Toyota developed its hybrid battery re-purposing program so as to extend the usable life of its batteries beyond the vehicle. Toyota dealers from across the country recover and process batteries from a variety of scenarios including crashed vehicle recovery to batteries replaced due to a lack of sufficient charge. And while these batteries may not have the charge to propel vehicles any longer, they still have significant storage and discharge capacity remaining.

Re-used Toyota Camry Hybrid battery packs store energy generated by solar panels in an innovative distributed energy system now online at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch field campus in Yellowstone National Park.

Re-used Toyota Camry Hybrid battery packs store energy generated by solar panels in an innovative distributed energy system now online at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch field campus in Yellowstone National Park.

For the Yellowstone Lamar Buffalo Ranch project, every battery pack was dis-assembled, tested, reconfigured and reassembled. And every piece of the battery pack that could be used was repurposed, from the metal case, to the cabling that was used in the vehicle.

The Solution

The Lamar Buffalo Ranch electricity storage system utilizes 208 recovered and repurposed Toyota Camry Hybrid vehicle battery packs. It also includes additional components designed specifically for this application, such as the battery management system control boards.

At the Lamar Buffalo Ranch field campus in Yellowstone National Park, solar panels generate renewable electricity stored within 208 used Toyota Camry Hybrid battery packs.

At the Lamar Buffalo Ranch field campus in Yellowstone National Park, solar panels generate renewable electricity stored within 208 used Toyota Camry Hybrid battery packs.

The batteries collect and aggregate power from the output from 45 kilowatts of solar panels, which power 14 log cabins/buildings. The project will improve the off-grid power capabilities at the ranch, and educate the public about these types of systems in use in Yellowstone National Park.

To experience this installation of the project, watch David Absher and his colleague Kevin Butt explain it here:

 

Conclusions

The Lamar Buffalo Ranch hybrid battery storage system project is one of the largest applications of recovered and repurposed hybrid vehicle batteries in the world. It is an important project not only for Toyota, but perhaps for all hybrid and electric vehicle makers to better understand the potential for extending battery life. The onboard data management system at Yellowstone’s Lamar Buffalo Ranch will provide great insight into how the batteries actually perform in a real world energy storage setting and help understand how we might improve performance and durability going forward.

 

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