When a hybrid’s old nickel-metal hydride batteries, such as those used in the Toyota Prius, reach the end of their usefulness in the car there’s a question of what to do with them.
You certainly just can’t toss them in the trash given the environmental impacts they might have, and recycling them, while green, has financial issues. One possible solution? Reuse them to store energy for building related needs.
Toyota late last month said starting this April it plans to sell to its vehicle dealers in Japan an electricity management system that uses recycled nickel-metal hydride batteries from hybrid vehicles. This system will be usable in conjunction with operations such as Building Energy Management Systems, solar carports, solar power generation, LED lighting and energy-conserving air conditioning to more “comprehensively control the consumption, storage, and discharge of electricity, as well as increase usage efficiency.”
The electrical storage capacity of these systems will come in at 10 kWh, and they will weigh a rather hefty 980 kg, or 2,160 pounds, making them something you can’t just drop in your basement to store energy in from your rooftop solar panels.
The use at the car dealers though will be more practical, as Toyota said through testing of its technology it was found that "the amount and cost of electricity and gas used for a single dealership can be decreased by half compared to dealerships without the system." This varies somewhat though by the dealership’s environment and operations.
This use of an aspect of Toyota’s hybrid technology to power something besides the car itself isn’t the first such endeavor it is has undergone. Last June, for example, the Japanese automaker talked about making use of the Prius Plug-In, equipped with an inverter, to convert the car battery’s direct current into the alternating current used in homes. It wouldn’t be enough though to power a home by itself, instead being used in emergency situations to provide only essential power for a few days.