Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is testing new technology that could drive down the cost of electric cars.
ORNL is taking used vehicle batteries from electric cars and giving them a second life.
"People have their electric vehicles, a lot of them by 2020, and no one knows what we're going to do with the used batteries," said Omer Onar, with ORNL Energy Storage Program.
Drivers want the best mileage.
After an electric vehicle has used 20% of its battery it usually gets replaced, leaving 80% of its energy.
"As we start to look at the energy policies set across this country, we're going to see more and more clean energy," said Tom King, program director for ORNL Energy Efficiency and Electricity Technologies Program.
ORNL owns its own power grid. ORNL scientists are testing technology that takes those batteries and uses them for electricity.
"This project is all about the convergence of the transportation system with the electricity system," King said.
One unit holds five batteries from electric vehicles; the other unit converts that energy.
"If you can find a secondary use for batteries, then you have a secondary market. That market can drive the cost of the vehicle batteries down," said Michael Starke, an ORNL research staff member.
It can also help grid reliability.
The ORNL model can supply power for up to five homes.
"One thing it does do is provide uninterrupted power to a home.
So if something did happen on the power system, it could go into a different mode and basically supply power to these houses even though there's no grid connection," Starke said.
ORNL started testing the unit on its own grid on Friday. They will monitor progress for at least a year.
ORNL has partnered with ABB and General Motors for this project.