Green Fleets: What to Do When a Hybrid Battery Dies

Posted on May 22, 2009 by Paul Dexler

Many fleets, both public sector and commercial, have been moving aggressively towards acquiring more hybrids. Limo operators are no exception to this trend.

One issue not fully addressed in the lifecycle analysis of electric and particularly hybrid-electric vehicles is what happens at the end of their service life.

Most vehicle batteries, in fact most batteries in general, contain highly poisonous substances that should never enter our drinking water or food chain.

So, what should be done with the batteries, and does disposal vary for different kinds of batteries?

Since the first onboard electric systems became available in the early years of the 20th century, the system's battery in automobiles were still lead-acid units. Lead and hydrochloric acid are not noted for being environmentally friendly. Nickel-cadmium batteries are even worse. New battery technology is much "greener."

Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) is the technology of choice for the emerging hybrid-electric vehicle market. The technology is gaining acceptance for mission-critical backup power needs due to its excellent performance, high energy, reliability, low cost of ownership, and long life.

Cobasys LLC, headquartered in Orion, Mich., with manufacturing facilities in Springboro, Ohio, has been a leader in the development of NiMH batteries for automotive and other applications.

Cobasys was formed as a joint venture between Chevron and Energy Conversion Devices (ECD Ovonics) to further the development of emerging technologies and alternative-energy processes and products. The company has been working closely with major automakers to incorporate advanced energy storage systems to meet hybrid-electric vehicle requirements.

According to Cobasys, battery packs in hybrid vehicle applications must survive extremes in temperature and road vibrations and last the life of a vehicle.

NiMH batteries consist of two electrodes: the positive uses nickel-hydroxide for the cathode and the negative uses metal hydride for the anode. The electrodes are sandwiched together with a polymer separator to eliminate shorting. A small amount of water plus a potassium hydroxide mixture forms the electrolyte, which is added to the cell. The cell is sealed and charged electrically to form a 1.2v electrochemical couple. Individual cells can be connected in series to make batteries in various voltage ranges. A typical module is 12v.

Battery technologies are evaluated in terms of complete discharge cycles. A standard electric-vehicle battery can be charged and discharged 1,000 times to 80 percent depth-of-discharge (DOD), equivalent to more than 100,000 miles.

Hybrid vehicle applications use batteries differently. Generally, the battery is never fully charged or discharged in hybrid applications. NiMH batteries used in hybrid-electric vehicle applications can be cycled in shallow discharges hundreds of thousands of times and last more than 200,000 miles under a partial charge/discharge regime.

NiMH batteries are 100-percent recyclable and use no toxic materials (lead, cadmium, or lithium), making them the only rechargeable battery that can be legally disposed of in a landfill. But simply dumping them into a landfill is not economically nor environmentally sound.

So the answer is recycling. Hybrid vehicle manufacturers said they would accept the old battery and recycle it when it needed replacing.

Battery technology is advancing day by day. If you put a hybrid vehicle into service today, you probably will never have to worry about replacing the battery.

Note: This article is reprinted courtesy of Government Fleet, a Bobit Business Media publication.

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More News

2017 Escalade Still Ballin’ As A Visual Pleaser

Vehicle Review: If you’re the driver or front seat passenger, chances are you won’t want to relinquish your seat any time soon.

Genesis Scores High On Technology

Vehicle Review: The vehicle knocks it out the park with tech and it’s one of the most appealing aspects of this upstart luxury offering.

2017 S90 Sedan Is Big Upgrade For Volvo

Vehicle Review: This will be a must-have for luxury sedan buyers who value safety and comfort above power and overall ride quality.

Grech Minibus Will Sweep Tourists Off Their Feet

Vehicle Pick of the Week: Perfect for group shuttles, this brand new vehicle will pay for itself in no time.

Cadillac Creeps Up On Tesla With Plush Plug-In

The new CT6 hybrid pairs a little electricity with a lot of swank.

See More News

Facebook Comments ()

Comments (0)

Post a Comment



See More

LCT Store

LCT Magazine - May 2017 $12.95 Post International LCT Show Issue COVER STORY: * Best Operators of 2017: Their Winning Secrets Revealed * *


Experience the three annual industry events for networking for business, showcasing vehicles and products, and getting the tools for success.

Read About Your Region

What’s Happening Near You?
Click on any state to see the latest industry news and events in that region.

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment


Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Metro Magazine

Serving the bus and passenger rail industries for more than a century

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

Please sign in or register to .    Close