Authors: Albert Solé, Business Sales Development Officer at EIT Urban Mobility, and Piotr Grudzień, Innovation Consultant at Bax & Company
By 2030, over 1,000 GWh of new Li-ion batteries will be introduced to the EU market, with 90% intended for use in electric vehicles (EVs). This poses a new challenge regarding the availability of EV batteries and the materials needed to manufacture them. At the same time, many older batteries are already reaching their end of first life which opens up the possibility of alternative uses for EV batteries that may not have enough capacity for vehicles, but can be repurposed, reused, or recycled. This concerns not only passenger car batteries but also batteries used in shared micromobility vehicles, such as e-scooters or e-bikes, especially considering their shorter lifetime of 2-3 years. Many micromobility operators and vehicle OEMs are beginning to explore the benefits of battery circularity, with some already integrating circular battery solutions into their operations.
What happens to the batteries from the micromobility sector?
According to the Battery Regulation, end-of-life batteries from Light Means of Transport (LMT) must be collected and recycled. However, before their end-of-life there are many other higher-value uses for batteries from micromobility vehicles. Some manufacturers are exploring the possibility of reusing their customers' batteries as energy storage solutions in their facilities, thereby reducing overall energy costs. Additionally, certain micromobility operators are reaching agreements with private companies to repurpose their fleet batteries into other products for the market.
For instance, in France, Lime has partnered with Innov8 and Gouach to repurpose and recycle cells from their fleet batteries that are no longer suitable for their vehicles. These cells are transformed into auxiliary and portable consumer battery packs for smartphones. In the United Kingdom, Lime has collaborated with Gomi to create Bluetooth speakers, utilising approximately 50,000 battery cells from Lime e-bikes in London. In Spain, VOI has joined forces with GDV Mobility to develop a solar energy storage solution by reusing battery cells from VOI vehicles, extending the lifespan of these batteries by another 8-10 years.
However, a primary circularity challenge for many micromobility operators is predicting battery performance and state of health (SOH). This challenge also extends to vehicle manufacturers, particularly in the second-hand product market, as customers purchasing an 'old' e-bike or e-scooter often lack information about the battery's health. In such cases, manufacturers do not always offer battery performance testing services due to the high shipping costs associated with sending the batteries to their facilities, while shared mobility operators simply do not have proper tools to perform such assessments. Consequently, the lack of battery performance and health monitoring remains a significant barrier in many cases, limiting the potential of various business opportunities for both manufacturers and operators. Moreover, many manufacturers and operators struggle to identify the most suitable options for second-life uses of their batteries and how to bring these options to fruition.
In this context, BatteReverse spoke with Robin Laffin, the Head of Operations at Bib Batteries – a French company that has developed a data-driven solution to extend battery life. Their algorithm assesses the residual value of a battery on the market, enabling them to provide operators with the best solution: repair, second-life usage, or recycling.
Bib Batteries monitoring platform - how does it work?
Bib Batteries base their operational model on the analysis and contextualisation of data from batteries received from their clients, typically via API. The French start-up provides a two-level tool to take care of batteries.
For technicians: a digital register of all the fleet’s batteries. This allows for the scanning of batteries from micromobility vehicles, typically through a QR-code or barcode, providing them the basic information on the battery, allowing to report incidents, and giving them instructions on what to do next: send the batteries to repair, second-life or recycling.
For managers: several dashboards providing various insights, such as the fleet's battery size, battery age, average state of health (SOH), operational needs (i.e., whether the company has enough batteries per vehicle), the current status of batteries (e.g., the number of batteries awaiting repair or inspection), breakdowns of problem types, and recommended actions for repairs. Additionally, the tool contains a finance section with indicators to track battery economic value degradation per month and a transport section to organise battery selection and shipment to repairing, second-life or recycling.
By using its dashboard, Bib Batteries helps to triage batteries and offers different second-life usage options for mobility operators. For instance, damaged cells can be sent for recycling, while others with at least 65% SOH can be repurposed. The company has built a network of repairers in France, specialising in urban vehicle batteries, and is expanding this network beyond the country. Batteries are sent to the nearest repair facility, with batch sizes typically ranging from around 30 batteries for smaller clients, to 40-100 batteries for larger clients.
The business model: extending the batteries life with well-fitting second-life applications
Bib Batteries’ value proposition centres on minimising costs of vehicle operators by helping them in monitoring their battery fleet and optimising maintenance and circular management. The company usually offers a more cost-effective solution compared to pure recycling, allowing operators and manufacturers to maintain cash flow while disposing of batteries. While, at the moment, most customers of the French start-up are micromobility operators, the company has already started offering their services to EV OEMs as well.
The strength of Bib Batteries’ business model lies in the network of partners which can transport, repair, and repurpose batteries, as well as in the proprietary algorithms allowing to analyse battery data. Bib Batteries charge their customers with a monthly fee to access their monitoring services. This fee depends on the number of batteries in the customer’s fleet. Another revenue stream comes from commission fees for creating deals between companies, such as selling second-life batteries to repurposers.
Key challenges in unlocking second life potential of micromobility batteries
Although these examples are promising, there is still a long journey ahead to unleash the full potential of second-life batteries in the micromobility sector. Robin Laffin, Head of Operations at Bib Batteries, draws attention to the topic of awareness.
Today, there is still a lack of knowledge about the second life of batteries. We see micromobility companies with piles of batteries waiting to be addressed, unsure of how to handle them and unaware that damaged batteries can be a massive fire hazard, and that improperly stored batteries can enter deep discharge and lose any second-life value.
Robin Laffin, Head of Operations at Bib Batteries
Another major challenge is that many batteries are not built for repair or second life. For instance, the Battery Management Systems (BMS) in micromobility are not as advanced as those found in EVs. EV BMS systems are robust and can be diagnosed, but in light means of transport like scooters, BMS systems are generally less sophisticated, and it may sometimes be impossible to interact with them. Moreover, BMS systems are often proprietary and closed, making it difficult to repair batteries when the BMS is faulty or shut down. While documentation on the BMS may be accessible, the BMS itself cannot be ordered or replaced. Manufacturers retain ownership of the BMS in production, complicating efforts to find the necessary parts for battery repairs.
A practical example of this challenge is when disassembling a battery to repair another one. To obtain the BMS, it might be necessary to disassemble four batteries just to repair one. Given that BMS breakdowns are relatively common, batteries often end up with malfunctioning BMS, requiring BMS components to be sourced from other batteries for repairs. To facilitate more effective repairs, it is crucial for battery producers and vehicle OEMs to give access to parts or software so that batteries can be repaired. Unfortunately, there are still providers who do not grant access to their BMS, further hindering efforts to extend the lifespan of these batteries.
Generally speaking, the wide variety of micromobility batteries, with little to no standards, makes it difficult to find spare parts and repair batteries in a cost-effective way. The use of silicon for example, indeed protects the cells a little better, but makes it way more difficult to reuse them, and sometimes cover other parts of the batteries that would be repairable otherwise. Some battery producers are already designing batteries in a new way, especially in Europe, making them more repairable and reusable.
Use cases and future plans of Bib Batteries
Currently, Bib Batteries monitors approximately 10,000 batteries, primarily in France, with plans to expand into neighbouring countries. One notable partnership was formed with VelyVelo, a Paris-based electric-assist bike (E-bike) rental company, resulting in 300 e-bike batteries saved from recycling for repair. After analysing the SOH of the batteries, Bib Batteries sorted and diagnosed them. As a result, 80% of the batteries were repaired by a local partner at a lower cost than purchasing new batteries (€100 per repair vs. €300 for a new battery). This approach proved both economically efficient and environmentally sustainable.
Another significant partnership was established with Voi in Marseille and WeRECY. Bib Batteries' management platform analysed operational data from end-of-life batteries from Voi Technology Marseille and sorted them based on SOH. A hundred batteries with a SOH too low for scooter use but high enough for a second life were collected and treated by WeRECY for repurposing within the public lighting system.
Second-life batteries from micromobility do not always have to serve a lower-value application. In their most recent collaboration, Bib Batteries delivered retired cells from Dott scooters to Manufacturing Partners, a Polish company specialised in repurposing. The cells were integrated into a 36-kWh battery pack and used to retrofit an antique 1931 boat, now running on a 10 kW direct drive Axial Flux motor.
Having in mind the new obligations in the Battery Regulation that came into effect this year, Bib Batteries is now working on a new module for their platform to calculate the battery’s CO2 emissions throughout its lifetime. Additionally, the French start-up is developing a battery passport functionality to store comprehensive battery information, such as the current battery status and incident reports (together with their severity), ensuring traceability for any future battery users. The company also plans to extend their activities in the EV battery market which is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.
This case study was elaborated as part of the BatteReverse project by EIT Urban Mobility and Bax & Company with input from Bib Batteries. The article is part of the Circular Business Cases series, which analyses existing business models for Li-ion batteries.
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