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Innovate UK backs Aceleron for battery second life

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Innovate UK has backed Aceleron to develop a prototype that can test and sort used battery cells for a second life use, bringing circular models to an increasingly resource intensive industry.

  • Aceleron raises funds to develop circularity in batteries.
  • Increasing demand for clean-tech minerals means more mining without the introduction of circular business models.
  • Growing demand for the rare earth minerals required in many clean technologies could slow market growth without new approaches to resource management.

As electricity storage and battery demand increases, the issue of battery waste is of increasing concern. While some work has been done on recycling in the EV battery supply chain, there is a fast growing need for new approaches.

Aceleron has developed a new system with the potential to preserve cells that would otherwise have been discarded.  This is an important step forward in developing circular models within the battery supply chain, as a recent report from Benchmark Minerals suggests for lithium-ion alone the world will need nearly 400 new mines by 2035 if we are to meet increasing battery demand.

The system, which relies on a combination of robotics, software and automation, has the potential to significantly reduce the unnecessary waste of the raw materials used to build batteries.

It can detect the health of individual cells taken from end of life battery products, such as those used in EV’s, and sort them according to their state of health. Cells with a state of health that is above 70% can then be repurposed for further use.

Funding for new circular models minimising resource use set to rise

The project received funding from Innovate UK, and has been underway since May 2021, drawing on the expertise of four different organisations.

Aceleron is responsible for designing and building the only batteries that can currently be taken apart for servicing, repair and upgrade, reducing battery waste and creating a battery with the chance of a potentially infinite lifespan.

The other partners in the project are Innvotek Ltd, which specialises in the automation of inspection, maintenance and the digitisation of processes; MEV, an ultrasonics specialist company that provides equipment and expertise in operating systems and bespoke application software and the Brunel Innovation Centre, which supplies academic research that can be transferred into industrial applications and developed the ultrasonic inspection technique.

Carlton Cummins, Aceleron’s CTO and co-founder said: ‘“The average EV battery uses over 3,000 individual cells. When that battery reaches the end of its life, we estimate that at least half of the cells will still have a state of health higher than 80%.  With Lithium shortages being forecast as soon as 2035, this machine has enormous potential to preserve what is left – and ensure that we maximise the use of the raw materials used to make battery products.”

The group hopes to secure further funding in order to refine the technology and develop more systems so that more useable cells can be repurposed in future.

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