Watt4Ever: a second life for discarded electric car batteries
Five Belgian companies are jointly investing 1 million euros in Beringen for the start-up of a company specialising in the reuse or recycling of electric car batteries.
The brand new company has been named Watt4Ever and will initially be housed at the company Out of Use in Beringen. Out of Use already specialises in the intricate collection, reuse or recycling of electrical and electronic equipment, especially computers, laptops and servers. On behalf of Watt4Ever, Out of Use will now also take care of the collection and safe storage of discarded batteries at the garages of 44 car brands.
Another of Watt4Ever’s partners and shareholders is Febelauto, the umbrella organisation for garages and other businesses in the automotive sector. Other partners are the start-up ReVolta, specialising in energy storage for buildings based on spent electric car batteries, and Eco Lithium, which builds energy storage systems for motor-homes, boats and ships in a similar way. Finally, the consultancy firm Shence Management has also been brought in for its expertise in the circular economy. The six-strong Watt4Ever team is led by CEO Catherine Lenaerts, who has already earned her stripes as director at Febelauto.
"It is only now that electric and hybrid cars are starting to take off," says CEO Catherine Lenaerts. “So there are increasing numbers of these EV batteries in circulation. Watt4Ever aims to address this increase by giving discarded EV batteries a second life.”
Watt4Ever will convert still-usable EV batteries into energy storage systems for homes and businesses. "We already have batteries ready for individual use to store green energy, and battery systems that serve as backup systems for companies," says Lenaerts. "But in the future we'll also be looking at large systems of one or more MWh."
Some 30 percent of the battery packs collected can currently be reused and given a second life as energy storage systems. The remainder go to recycling. “Recycling can recover virtually all the valuable raw materials," explains Lenaerts. “Recycling EV batteries also calls for a very particular approach. It all starts with diagnosis: is the battery still useable or not? For that we use strict test procedures. The still-useable batteries can be used for another ten years or more to store energy.” This is followed by expert disassembly and dismantling of the unusable batteries. That too is a job that should only be carried out under secure conditions."
One of Watt4Ever’s customers is Delhaize. “We have already replaced one of our back-up power generators, which traditionally ran on diesel, with an energy storage system from Watt4Ever," says David Schalenbourg, director for architecture, construction and maintenance at Delhaize. “Of course this fits in with our determination, as a well-known distributor, to develop a sustainable identity. Together with Watt4Ever, we want to equip our stores with sustainable energy storage systems.”
At present Watt4Ever is still based at Out Of Use. But there are already plans to give the new business its own building. “We’ll be ready to cope with the expected growth in the number of discarded EV batteries,” promises Lenaerts “The number of employees will also increase sharply.”