Old(ish) Audi e-tron batteries are getting another life in India. In Uttar Pradesh, a German-Indian startup founded by Berlin-based Prodip Chatterjee, Nunam, has turned two Audi e-tron battery modules into the storage medium for a solar nanogrid. But how far can two battery modules go? Apparently, quite far in Uttar Pradesh. “The prototype currently allows roughly 50 shopkeepers and small businesses to continue working even after dark” for up to a week.
Chatterjee visited family in Uttar Pradesh and immediately noticed a big problem and an opportunity to solve it. “In parts of Uttar Pradesh, hours-long power outages regularly make life difficult for the people who live there,” he said. “Shops are open late in the rural area — without light, many tradespeople lose their source of income,” Audi adds.
Aside from Nunam, the Audi Environmental Foundation is also supporting the project and provided the second-life batteries from what were previously test vehicles.
So, aside from whether it works, what are they testing? The system is replacing 4 lead-acid batteries, which are naturally prone to degrade much more quickly (have its storage capacity decline). The goal is to basically just see how the capacity holds up, that the batteries perform … as batteries, and how long it works for the desired purpose.
They check the capacity, voltage curve, and temperature distribution before putting the 2nd-life battery into service, and then can check those again over time. “The prototype is connected to the internet via a SIM card and regularly transmits data that Nunam evaluates in order to draw conclusions about the state of (dis)charge of the battery.”
The coolest thing about the project is they want others to copy them. Rather than try to monopolize the market for this solution, they are encouraging and enticing others. “The nonprofit start-up will soon provide the data online on an open-source platform in order to make the knowledge gained available to possible imitators.”
It’s an inspiring project, not because two batteries are seeing a cool use in another world, but because there’s potential to scale this up tremendously as the EV market grows. Many grids around the world could use this high-quality, long-life energy storage system.
“As a result of the increasing electrification of the global vehicle fleet, we need to address possible purposes for the batteries of electric cars,” says Rüdiger Recknagel, Managing Director of the Audi Environmental Foundation. “By supporting Nunam, we want to set an example. For one, we want to prove that modern technology can be sustainable if you consider not only its initial purpose during development but also a second or even third one. Furthermore, we want to support young researchers in particular who do not have access to the same resources as established companies. Environmental education and an inquisitive spirit are essential for a livable future.”