Will Second-life batteries benefit the entire energy storage market?

We are pleased to share our Energy Storage interview with Dr. Carolin Funk,  Chief Operating Officer, FreeWire Technologies, USA. Dr. Carolin was a speaker at the 10th Energy Storage World Forum in May 2017 in Berlin. Learn more about the 11th Energy Storage World Forum and the 5th Residential Energy Storage Forum 2018 in Berlin by downloading the program

And here are the questions from our editor. Enjoy the interview!

What are the global technological market innovations that drive the next generation Energy Storage solutions? And in your opinion, what are the biggest challenges?

A number of variables contribute to, and detract from, growth in the energy storage market. As with many industries, we are seeing economic and political factors playing vital roles. Cost reductions from adjacent markets, such as battery-powered electronics (like electric vehicles) and large-scale renewable energy growth (such as solar) are paving the way for increased storage, while regulation around grid stability and renewable adoption has been extremely inviting as well. That being said, significant challenges exist in the market, too. In particular, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to energy storage, meaning a certain amount of customization is required. Value stacking and flexible solutions are the key to finding the right option across customer segments and scaling up manufacturing.

At ESWF in Berlin you tapped into very interesting topic “Will second-life Battery Systems Ever Be More Cost Effective Than An Efficient Battery Recycling Industry?” Is there a straightforward answer and where are the things headed?

The battery world is constantly innovating, meaning there are no straightforward answers! That being said, a number of patterns are emerging in the second-life battery ecosystem that allow us to make some predictions about what factors will be most influential. Right now, there is very little regulation, meaning that utilizing second-life batteries is an economical choice. However, as prices for new batteries fall, and the market becomes more saturated with second-life batteries, we will see new trends emerge based on this changing landscape.

FreeWire believes that second-life batteries have the potential to benefit the entire energy storage market; however, all the players will need to rally together to share insights and make this opportunity a viable one. The question of whether or not it will be more cost-effective than recycling will also depend on the simultaneous development of the lithium-ion battery recycling industry. Battery costs, industry expectations, and other variables — such as regulation — will factor into cost-effectiveness. Whether we are looking at the future of recycling or energy storage, voices from each of these different corners will likely impact the direction of the market. The worst thing that can happen is just seeing these batteries locked up in warehouses; as long as all the different partners work together to offer a better solution, recycling and reuse can both be viable alternatives.

What kind of partnerships do we need to build between different members of the value chain to make energy storage successful?

There are a number of invaluable partnerships on both the supply and demand sides of the process. Fostering relationships early on in the development of energy storage systems with original suppliers (such as lithium-ion battery manufacturers) and policymakers is key to a lean, reliable supply chain. On the other end of the spectrum, tapping into the right markets for demand is vital. Partnering with large-scale adopters of energy storage, such as utilities, ensures a healthy understanding of customer need and viability.

Freewire Technology vision is to transform energy delivery by building mobile, connected energy storage unites. Can you please share a recent business case showing your core competence and in what way were you able to add value in this market?

FreeWire is tapping into two distinctly unique markets: EV charging (with the Mobi Charger) and mobile power delivery (with the Mobi Gen). The company first rolled out the Mobi Charger, and we’ve seen extremely encouraging feedback. Recently, we sold the Mobi Charger to the state of Washington to charge their new fleet of EVs as part of the Washington States Electric Fleet Initiative. Washington’s electric fleet historically had low utilization, due to inefficient charging options and long-range needs. By purchasing 200+ range vehicles alongside FreeWire’s mobile L2 charger, the state will be able to extract maximum utility from the fleet. Portability has been one of their main obstacles; by offering more versatility compared to stationary chargers, the Mobi Charger will help Washington hit their CO2 reduction goals as they continue to electrify their fleet within the proposed time frame.

The Mobi Gen is the newer product on the market, yet it has already generated significant buzz. In addition to promising opportunities within the construction and utility segments, the Gen has been a hit across the rental industry. Mobi Gens have been used for a variety of events, such as the March of Science in LA, to power integral electricity components in areas where grid or diesel power generation is not possible.


Dr. Carolin Funk is the COO of FreeWire Technologies, an energy startup deploying the first commercial use of second-life lithium ion batteries. Previously, Carolin was the Director of Venture Technology at Siemens, where she developed smart grid and industrial automation innovation projects. She also worked as a Project Director for the German Energy-Agency in Berlin, driving public-private partnership projects with European utilities and governmental organizations to integrate more renewables in the energy system. Carolin holds a PhD in Engineering (focused on second-generation biofuels and energy systems) and an MBA and Masters in Engineering from the Technical University of Berlin.


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