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Innovation Fund backs second life for electric vehicle batteries

4 October 2017

Melbourne start up business Relectrify is launching its ground-breaking new technology to repurpose used batteries from electric vehicles for extended use, including in behind-the-meter household energy storage.

With a $750,000 equity investment from the Clean Energy Innovation Fund, Relectrify will develop and commercialise control technologies that optimise the use of lithium-ion vehicle batteries.

The Innovation Fund uses CEFC finance to invest in innovative clean energy companies and projects. It draws on the combined skills and experience of the CEFC and ARENA. 

Relectrify, the alumni of the University of Melbourne's Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP), was one of 10 start-up companies which pitched for financial support at the Innovation Fund's inaugural Clean Energy Innovators Demo Day in February this year.

The Innovation Fund's investment is part of Relectrify's $1.5 million pre-Series A equity raising. Relectrify has developed advanced battery control technology that reduces the cost of repurposing batteries, while boosting performance and lifetime. The technology combines both power electronics hardware and battery optimisation software.

Relectrify CEO and Co-founder Valentin Muenzel said recycled batteries could be repurposed widely, including for 12V batteries, household solar battery systems and grid-scale storage.

"Batteries are becoming a fundamental building block of the new energy industry and seeing significant uptake across households, businesses and the power grid. And this is just the beginning. There is an immense need for affordable and capable storage across almost all parts of our lives now and in the future," Mr Muenzel said.

"When electric vehicles can no longer provide the driving range and acceleration required, most batteries still retain up to 80 per cent of their storage capacity and can still be charged and discharged a further 2000 times. The trouble was large battery packs contain hundreds of individual cells, and if one isn't working, the whole system stops functioning.

"To fix this problem, Relectrify assembled a world-class team of engineers to develop our own technology that would reduce the cost of repurposing the batteries, boost their performance and increase their longevity," he said.

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said potential applications for Relectrify's forward-thinking technology can be adopted across the whole economy to have a significant impact on the way Australians use energy.

"Although home batteries are only a tiny part of our energy storage today, industry experts are saying they could be capable of storing around 15 gigawatt hours by 2035. That's enough stored electricity to power South Australia's current summer peak demand for five hours," Mr Learmonth said.

"And while electric vehicles currently make up only around 0.2 per cent of vehicle sales in Australia, by 2035 they are expected to represent just over one quarter.  That translates to an increasing supply of lithium ion batteries that are no longer useful in cars, but are still incredibly capable for other applications.

"It's important to rapidly develop technologies like Relectrify's, to ensure we are well placed to take advantage of high performance, reliable and cost-effective energy storage solutions that assist in the transition of the energy system, as well as reduce the environmental impact of used equipment through repurposing it."

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said Relectrify's technology to recycle batteries would reduce waste and make home storage more affordable.

"Relectrify are led by bright and passionate Melbourne-based founders who are looking to bring an innovative idea to renewable energy storage solutions that can significantly lower the cost of energy storage in a sustainable way," Mr Frischknecht said.

"We're excited to see how the technology grows and is adopted not only by Australian consumers, but consumers around the world."