Audi’s electric statement at Dakar is symbolic of the rise of EVs and the race to save our planet

Repurposing of EV battery cells into 2nd LiFe batteries set to become vital cog in circular economy 

JOHANNESBURG – Audi shook the motoring world with its RS Q E-Tron at the Dakar Rally, so much so that there have been calls for the FIA to look at regulations so that the German carmaker doesn’t steamroll all opposition in the future. 200kg overweight but by all accounts, the fastest in the competition, the RS Q E-Tron’s breakthrough couldn’t come at a better time as the world’s carmakers race to make a mark on the electric vehicle (EV) market, and this is good news for the energy storage industry, says Revov MD Lance Dickerson.


“Formula E, Audi’s expected return to Le Mans next year with an electrified race car and watershed moments such as Audi’s statement at the Dakar Rally all serve to popularise EVs,” says Dickerson. “In a petrol-head society, the mere suggestion that a hybrid or electric car can be as fast, faster even, is a paradigm shift for many that have either been in denial or living in the shadow of internal combustion engine dominance.”

Dickerson, whose company Revov supplies batteries for the renewable energy and uninterrupted power supply (UPS) market in sub-Saharan Africa that are repurposed from the cells of EV batteries, says Audi’s successes could do wonders for 2nd LiFe batteries. “Imagine us repurposing the cells of an E-Tron that won a stage at the Dakar and using it to provide energy storage at a renewable plant: the symbolism couldn’t be more poignant as we quite literally are in a race to save the planet,” he says.

Dickerson says that Revov plays an important role in the circular economy, a concept that is not yet mainstream but gaining momentum. “EV batteries are designed to withstand high charge and discharge rates and extreme operating conditions. Currently, the elephant in the room in the EV industry is what happens to the battery when it needs to be replaced?”

Dickerson explains that after a few years the weight of the battery no longer justifies its output and so it’s replaced. In the absence of a viable recycling value chain, these batteries end up in landfills – the opposite of what saving the planet should look like. “However, the individual cells in these EV batteries still have many years’ life – up to 10 or 15 years – if they are repurposed and built into batteries that are designed for stationary storage where weight doesn’t matter. These are called second life (2nd LiFe) batteries,” says Dickerson, who explains that LiFe is a play on the periodic table symbols for lithium and iron.

That’s the position in the circular economy that Revov was created to fill, he says, because what better way to contribute to the wellbeing of the economy than to supply energy backup to another burgeoning industry – renewable energy – using 2nd LiFe lithium iron phosphate batteries. “Sure, there are brand new lithium batteries that are built to go into the storage market, but when you consider that there is a trivial difference in performance, and in some instances superior performance from the EV cells used in 2nd LiFe batteries, it becomes a no-brainer. Why add additional strain to the lithium supply chain when we can solve a massive problem for the EV industry?” asks Dickerson.

With South Africa’s EV market set to gather momentum over the coming years, Dickerson says carmakers will find that they, too, will be faced with the dilemma EV manufacturers are finding in more mature markets such as Shenzhen, China. When asked if Revov would be prepared to step in and repurpose local EV batteries after their productive lives in electric vehicles, Dickerson’s answer was unambiguous. “Of course, that is very much part of our strategy. The whole point of introducing 2nd LiFe into the energy storage sector in South Africa and other African countries is to lighten the carbon load on our planet. It’s absolutely in all our best interests that South Africa embraces the circular economy,” he says.

Growing lithium shortages are likely to add pressure to the 1st LiFe battery market, not least on supplier margins, so Dickerson predicts 2nd LiFe batteries will become the dominant battery type providing energy backup to power installations and UPS systems.

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