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January 09, 2023 | Tom Ballard

TTU receives more than $4.5 million in DOE grant

It'll go toward researching ways to recycle and reuse electric vehicle batteries.

Tennessee Tech University (TTU) received $4,531,642 in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) as part of a program to advance technologies and processes for recycling and reusing batteries from electric vehicles. In total, DOE awarded $73.9 million to 10 applicants. TTU’s efforts are focused on bringing more electric vehicles and charging stations to rural areas.

“Electric vehicle batteries are designed to last the typical lifetime of the vehicle,” said Pingen Chen, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Principal Investigator on the project. “For the battery, this equates to roughly 1,000 full depth of discharge cycles at a C/3 rate and a 15-year calendar life.”

When a battery for an electric vehicle degrades enough that it is no longer strong enough to meet the high-performance requirements of the vehicle, it still has enough power for other, less strenuous, uses. Tech’s project – titled “Second-life Battery in Mobile EV Charging Application for Rural Transportation” (SMART) – is to give new uses to these batteries instead of watching them end up in a landfill.

Concurrently, a goal of the Automotive Powertrain and Emissions Control Laboratory at TTU has been to make electric vehicles more accessible to people living in rural areas. One of the biggest obstacles to this is ensuring these vehicle owners have places to charge these electric vehicles. The solution has been mobile charging stations.

“This project aims to address the urgent need to develop affordable mobile charging stations that can be deployed in rural America at a large scale by utilizing second-life batteries retired from electric vehicles, which cost 70-75 percent less than new battery energy storage systems of the same size,” Chen said.

Undergraduate and graduate students will be assisting with the project. In addition to getting the chance to have a hand in providing solutions to real-world problems, they will also be gaining critical knowledge of lithium-ion batteries, including aging characteristics, battery state of health estimation, battery management system design and validation, mobile charging station design and deployment, and charging station network design and development.