In A Moment: B.C. Cleantech Startup Brings ‘Second Life’ To Old EV Batteries
Moment Energy Inc. works directly with the automakers to repurpose electric-vehicle batteries that are no longer viable in the EV market, but that can still have a ‘second life’ as clean, affordable and reliable energy storage.
“Right now, the automakers do the testing, and then they’re trying to get rid of these batteries, because they don’t want to pay for recycling,” Edward Chaing, co-founder and chief executive officer, told the Bulletin. “And so, they send these to us. They’ve already been tested for safety and whatnot. Next, we reassemble them into a form factor that’s usable for a building, because an EV is very different from what a building requires.”
He added: “At Moment, we thought: ‘After you’ve driven with these batteries for 12-plus years, and you’re ready to get rid of these vehicles, there’s actually an average of 80-per-cent life left in the batteries. Why are we throwing these batteries away?’ Why do we even recycle them if we can repurpose them into stationary energy storage — into storage for buildings — for another 10-15-plus years of additional life? We’ll responsibly recycle them after that.”
Unfortunately, according to Chaing, the current cost for recycling an EV battery can be several thousand dollars — a sum beyond what the average consumer will pay and that would cut too deeply into the automakers’ margins. This is resulting in only about five per cent of all EV batteries to be recycled, he suggested. Most retired batteries either end up in storage as they await a time when the economics justify recycling, or, in some countries, they end up in the landfills.
“Right now, we’re focused on working with the recyclers. And so, we work with the main ones across North America, and we also have connections with European ones as well. With them, they predict that after 10-15 years, once our systems reach end-of-life, the profitability of recycling will be such that we can drop off batteries for free.”
History of Moment
Chaing, along with the company’s other three cofounders, are electronics engineers who, in late 2019, decided to apply their shared expertise to a major problem that is poised to keep growing as more people adopt EVs. The CEO noted that the ‘Moment’ moniker is a reference to the immediate needs for solving climate change.
“We’re based in Vancouver. We interview lots of consumers, and we essentially found a bunch of consumers who were, for example, done with their Chevy Volts, and they’re ready to get rid of them,” he said, adding Moment works to “transform the momentum” of EVs into energy for buildings, ensuring people have access to clean, reliable energy. “The technological advantage we have over other second-life companies out there is flexibility.”
In 2020, for example, Moment secured a supply-chain deal with Nissan North America, working towards creating a circular economy for its EV batteries. In 2022, the firm established a supply agreement with Mercedes-Benz Energy (MBE) for second-life EV batteries, marking the first agreement MBE has signed with a North American second-life energy storage system provider. Moment has integrated MBE batteries in a 60-kilowatt-hour energy storage solution.
“We also have two additional partners and three others we’re onboarding as well,” Chaing said. “It’s all because of the platform of how we can repurpose these batteries.”
A cabinet solution
Basically, the Moment solution is a simple, cabinet system, according to Chaing, with each cabinet measuring about 1.5 metres tall, one metre wide and 45 centimetres deep. Each cabinet has about 48 kilowatt hours of usable capacity, and they can be stacked to whatever capacity is required.
“We’re focused on what we call the ‘commercial-industrial’ segment,” he said, adding this segment includes both off-grid and on-grid applications. In terms of off-grid, an application example would include energy storage for remote lodging in the resource extraction sector — remote sites that typically depend on large diesel generators. “We can plug our batteries into these big diesel generators.”
Essentially, when the batteries are low, these generators automatically turn on to charge the batteries. Once recharged, the generators can turn off and energy can discharge from the battery packs. “Without even trying for optimization, we can reduce the diesel consumption by about 40 per cent.”
Friend for renewables
Remote sites can start implementing intermittent renewables, such as solar and wind, so long as energy storage solutions such as Moment’s cabinet system are on-site to store the intermittent renewable sources to be discharged through the batteries whenever they are needed, suggested Chaing.
“Imagine these mining sites in the middle of the woods or in the North. Typically, all the workers are off working during the days anyways when the sun is up. And if you didn’t have any batteries to store that energy, when everyone comes home around 5-6 p.m., there’s no [solar] power at all. You can only run on diesel generators at that point.”
Meanwhile, in terms of potential on-grid applications, Moment’s battery packs can help manufacturing facilities, EV charging stations, commercial buildings, et cetera, avoid heavy peak-demand charges, allowing these buildings to cut off from the grid and discharge from the batteries instead. “We’ll charge our batteries at very low and cheap times, such as 3 a.m. when everyone is asleep and energy is typically the cheapest.”
The company is researching the possibility of transitioning to provide second-life battery storage for use on rigs, Chaing noted. However, “rigs are extremely high-powered applications” and it is not Moment’s current focus.
Room to grow
As the use of electric vehicles increases worldwide, Chaing foresees substantial coinciding annual growth in the second-life EV battery market, which bodes well for Moment.
“Right now, there are only nine million electric vehicles on the road. The goal is to hit 125-145 million on the road in another seven-to-eight years. We’ll let the automakers try and hit those targets, but in that same seven-to-eight-year time, it’s predicted there’ll be 200-300 gigawatt hours of end-of-life EV batteries per year that have no home.”
While EV batteries are currently essentially too costly to recycle, Chaing told the DOB, recyclers hope improved logistical costs and processes, as well as technological improvements, will make it economical to do so in the next 10-15 years. Moment’s second-life battery storage can serve as a bridge until recycling becomes more practical. “That’s why a second-life company such as us is so important — to extend the life of these batteries before they get recycled.”
A key advantage Moment has over its competitors is its ability to utilize EV batteries of various shapes and sizes from different automakers, said the CEO. On the software side, the company is training its machine-learning model, collecting data from multiple projects to help customers optimally satisfy energy storage needs. “We’re continually working on a second-life-specific battery management system.”
He added: “We are already scaling [up] manufacturing. We just moved into a 15,000 square-foot facility from our much smaller facility, and we’re just trying to manufacture faster. We are trying to expand faster and expand into the [U.S.], expand into Europe and Asia as well, and just ramp up manufacturing.”
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