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Counties Energy repurposes end of life EV batteries to recharge new EV cars

In a New Zealand first, Counties Energy is completing the life-cycle for used electric vehicle (EV) batteries by converting them into its Berm Battery energy storage system for recharging EVs.

Officially launched today, the Berm Battery’s journey to become New Zealand’s first second-life battery system followed a comprehensive planning and certification process which began in 2020 and included two years of testing including in a ‘real world’ environment. It was commissioned in October 2023.

The low voltage berm battery system is based at a strategic state highway location at Mercer, Waikato.  The system uses 18 repurposed Nissan Leaf batteries which would otherwise have been discarded to landfill to store electricity taken from the network at lower demand periods to use for higher demand EV power charging.

Working with Australian battery energy storage developer Relectrify and its CellSwitch™ technology, the ReVolve® system stores 240kWh of energy or around 10 times the storage capacity of a typical home battery storage unit.

The Pukekohe-based company is excited to launch this high-powered EV charging solution for drivers, offering extremely fast and convenient charging to keep EV drivers on the move with an innovative sustainable solution.

Counties Energy Chief Group Strategy and Transformation Officer Moonis Vegdani says the innovative project epitomises the future of energy and ‘flexible infrastructure’ at work right now in New Zealand.

“By making the connections between the network and berm battery storage, we are able to meet high demand loads such as EV charging and, at the same time, reduce stress on the network, smooth the network load, decrease connection times and avoid or defer costly infrastructure upgrades,” he says.

Additional benefits to EV drivers include faster charging and resiliency. EV drivers can now charge their vehicles at a faster charge rate – previously this was 120kW, due to network constraint at the local transformer, now with the support of the battery this can be up to 180kW. The battery could also power the EV chargers in a power outage or grid emergency.

The project demonstrates sustainable driving technology and how battery energy solutions can manage peak demand electricity usage cost effectively, ultimately benefiting the company, local electricity consumers, EV drivers and the environment.

“We’re proud to collaborate with Counties Energy on the Berm Battery solution, demonstrating the power of forward-thinking partnerships,” said Relectrify VP of Partnerships Juergen Barth. “This initiative showcases how our CellSwitch technology can help reimagine the lifecycle of EV batteries to revolutionise energy storage and distribution. We believe that innovation thrives at the intersection of sustainability and technology.”

The project is an example of Counties Energy’s distributed systems operator (DSO) strategy as it works sustainably towards decarbonisation and reimagining New Zealand’s energy future. By unlocking smart meter data, real time network information, usage and generation data enables the company to actively orchestrate energy, creating ‘flex and stretch’ in their network to allow for customers’ changing needs.

“As a company we strive to be at the forefront of sustainable energy usage in New Zealand, as early investors in electric vehicle fleets and charging systems, along with battery technology. We’re huge supporters of promoting electric vehicle usage within our region and beyond with our EV charging platform OpenLoop, while also investigating how we prepare for the future of electricity distribution using smarter energy technologies. These projects achieve both outcomes, and we’re grateful to EECA and the Fund for supporting us in our vision to deliver enhanced energy solutions to our community,” says Mr Vegdani.

Counties Energy installed two high-power EV chargers at Mercer Service Centre on the Waikato Expressway in October 2022 and together with the new 240kWh second-life EV battery system (commissioned in 2023) now optimises the use of electricity capacity and demand on the electricity network during peak power usage times.

While the EV chargers at the strategic Waikato Expressway site in Mercer are co-funded by Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA) as part of the Government’s Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund, the Bern Battery storage project is fully funded by Counties Energy. EECA contributed up to $112,000 towards the Mercer High-Power Chargers initiative.

The company announced in February 2024 the completion of a major DSO milestone on a project collaborating with OpenLoop,  Europe-based Plexigrid and Ara Ake.   The programme’s next milestone will go further to use the intelligent DSO platform in an in-field pilot later this year, the core of which is based on learnings from South Australia Power Network’s and their implementation of Dynamic Operating Envelopes (DOEs) using the IEEE 2030.5 protocol.

Once the project is completed, Counties Energy plans to offer DSO services via distributed energy resource (DER) aggregators and use flexibility management as an effective energy orchestration solution.  The Berm Battery is one such project that could utilise DOEs in future for dynamic capacity and pricing benefits for EV drivers- and charge point operators.

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