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  • Writer's pictureConnar Stratton

Startup Idea #24: EV battery repurposing and recycling

Idea: Electric vehicle (EV) battery recycling, and repurposing business. As EV batteries reach their end of service, they can still store at least 70% of their original capacity. The batteries that can be repurposed would be used as energy storage for solar electricity. The batteries that cannot be repurposed would be recycled, focusing on recycling the lithium, cobalt and nickel.

Problem: There are three key problems:

  1. The amount of EVs on the road is growing astronomically, and by 2025 there will already be tens of thousands of batteries that will reach their end of service.

  2. As renewable energy sources such as wind and solar increase in popularity their biggest challenge will be energy storage.

  3. The demand for lithium-ion battery raw materials is already at unprecedented levels, and is only going to increase. So we need to recycle the materials as best we can.

Insight: Although this problem doesn't seem as large now, short of some major battery breakthroughs this will be a critical problem over the next 10 years.

Validation method: This is a marketplace problem as you have the supply of batteries, and the demand of applications. I would start by validating the applications. Reach out to several solar panel companies on LinkedIn, and ask if they're willing to purchase repurposed batteries off you for a heavily discounted price. You may need to experiment with the different application channels until you find the one with the most demand. As always, it doesn't matter if they agree to purchase. You say you ran out, and ask if you can stay in touch. Then you figure out the supply-side issue. A good starting point would be to start with EV dealerships, and EV servicing shops. You can walk into them and ask if they're willing to discuss you buying batteries off their old EVs. Some of the larger brands such as Tesla may already have recycling channels or partners in place, so you may need to experiment to find the right underserved company.

Notes: One of the biggest challenges for this business is the lack of EV battery standardisation across the industry. Although this is good for innovation and competition, this make recycling, and repurposing a lot harder. An angle would be to focus on one or two key players such as Tesla and VW, and then eventually scale the technology once we see greater convergence of battery technology. Buying the batteries is likely the easier part of the business. The harder parts of the business are finding applications for their repurposing by making deals with solar panel suppliers, and recycling the batteries which can be dangerous, complicated, and expensive.

Why am I doing this? I’m an innovation consultant who helps businesses build new products, and ventures. And I want people to see how easy it is to build, and validate an initial business idea. Hopefully inspiring them to start their own business.

Am I worried that people will take the ideas? I hope they do. These ideas will hopefully make the world a better place. Just remember, “Ideas are cheap. Execution is everything”. What’s most likely is that within a month of testing the idea, the idea would have completely pivoted, but this is a starting point.


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