Every year, 6,000 large, expensive, and depleted batteries, recycled by auto dealers all over the country, pour into Toyota Motor Corp. in Japan. The batteries have been pulled out of Prius automobiles as they are replaced by car dealers who then return them to the manufacturer for recycling. And given the growing popularity of the Prius, this rate will almost certainly continue to rise over time.
What to do with them? Toyota has ingeniously figured out a way to refurbish them, reconfigure them, and resell them back to the very dealers who had returned them. How do they do this?
See the ingenious power management system that Toyota will offer its dealers, made from old Prius batteries…
Toyota revealed in Japan last week that it has found a way to turn used nickel-metal hydride batteries from its popular Prius hybrid cars into an energy management system which it will then resell to its dealers to lower their energy costs. The new energy management system is a clever combination of the recycled Prius batteries employed in conjunction with solar power modules and high-efficiency air conditioning units.
The system will be sold by Toyota’s energy management division called Toyota Turbine and Systems, Inc. Each system uses (or should we say, reuses?) ten Prius batteries and has a capacity of 10kwh. Toyota estimates that the system will cost the dealer ¥3 million ($33,000).
But what do these systems do?…
What do these “energy management systems” do for the dealer? According to Toyota, the system can dramatically lower the energy costs by reducing peak hour energy draw. Japan has variable pricing schedule for their energy delivery – with power usage at peaks hours charged at a higher rate. With this new Toyota system, the Prius batteries can store energy from off-hours for use by the dealer during peak hours…reducing their need for the more expensive peak hour energy.
Not only that, but the company says that their energy management system provides dealers with an emergency back-up power system for use during future disasters such as tsunamis, typhoons, earthquakes or other natural disaster. This capability has become desirable in Japan in the wake of last year’s earthquake and tsunami with destroyed a northern Japan nuclear power station causing widespread power outages.
Moving towards a ‘sustainable’ future…
With this program, Toyota is hoping to reduce the environmental impact of all of the waste Prius batteries in a win-win manner with their dealers. The company also plans to offer a 4kwh version this fall which will be even more affordable.
How great of a reduction in energy use and cost will Toyota dealers receive by using this new system? The company has been testing the system at select Toyota dealerships around Japan since February 2012. According to the company, some dealers cut their energy usage and costs by up to 50% by using the new energy management system. [Note: this savings is provided by Toyota and has not been independently verified.]
Available beginning this coming April, Toyota says that their initial sales goal for these systems is between 30-50 units per year. Eventually, the company says, they are considering expanding their sales of these systems beyond Toyota dealers to other markets such as convenience stores, emergency response centers/evacuation shelters, and others.