General Motors and ABB have demonstrated an energy storage system that combines electric vehicle battery technology and a grid-tied electric power inverter.

The two companies are building a prototype that could lead to Volt battery packs storing energy, including renewable wind and solar energy, feeding it back to the grid.

The system, says GM, could store electricity from the grid during times of low usage to be used during periods of peak demand.  The battery packs could also be used as back-up power sources during outages and brownouts.  

"As we grow our battery systems expertise we need to assure we’re optimising the development of our battery systems with secondary use in mind from the start,” said GM executive director global electrical systems electrification and infotainment Micky Bly.

“Partnerships with organisations such as ABB provide real-world applications that prove what we’re doing is real, not fiction.”

Using Volt battery cells, the ABB and GM team is building a prototype system for 25-kilowatt/50-kWh applications, around the same power consumption of five US homes or small retail and industrial facilities.  

ABB has determined its existing power quality filter (PQF) inverter can be used to charge and discharge the Volt battery pack to take advantage of the system and enable utilities to reduce the cost of peak load conditions.

The system can also reduce utilities’ needs for power control, protection and additional monitoring equipment. The team will soon test the system for back-up power applications.

“Our tests so far have shown the viability of the GM-ABB solution in the laboratory and they have provided valuable experience to overcome the technical challenges,” said ABB programme manager for distributed energy storage medium voltage power products Pablo Rosenfeld. “We are making plans now for the next major step – testing a larger prototype on an actual electric distribution system.”

As part of its focus on reuse and recycling, GM has appointed Pablo Valencia to the new position of senior manager for battery life-cycle management. Valencia and his team will focus on assuring battery systems used in future Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles provide benefits beyond their use in the vehicle.

Single-source responsibility assures the design of future battery systems is compatible with reuse and recycling applications.

Earlier this year, General Motors signed a definitive agreement with ABB Group to identify joint research and development projects that would reuse Chevrolet Volt battery systems, which will have up to 70% of life remaining after their automotive use is exhausted.