CHARLOTTE, NC - Duke Energy and Tokyo-based ITOCHU Corp. have signed an agreement to collaborate on advanced energy technologies, starting with the evaluation and testing of second-life applications for electric vehicle batteries. 

According to some auto industry estimates, electric vehicle (EV) batteries that can no longer charge to approximately 80 percent of their original capacity may be candidates for replacement. Duke Energy and ITOCHU said they believe batteries that become unsuitable for use in EVs could live on in other applications. Reuse possibilities for these batteries include providing a supplemental home energy supply, storing renewable power and providing a fast-charging power source for EVs.

To determine the technical feasibility and commercial viability of these second-life applications, Duke Energy and ITOCHU will first gather and analyze data from at least 2,000 kilowatt-hours of Ener1 lithium-ion batteries deployed in a fleet of approximately 80 Think plug-in EVs. Initial testing will occur in Duke Energy's Indiana service territory.

Duke Energy and ITOCHU's pilot program builds upon their involvement in Project Plug-IN, a large-scale public/private EV initiative based in Indianapolis.

The companies will assess how EV batteries perform in their "second lives," including stationary applications in homes, neighborhoods and commercial buildings. This pilot project will help Duke Energy and ITOCHU validate potential business models for future commercialization. In addition, the companies believe increasing the total lifetime value of batteries through second-life applications could help reduce initial battery cost.

Duke Energy will provide engineering design support for battery installations, as well as supply test sites and personnel. ITOCHU will provide its stationary energy storage infrastructure expertise to enable the reuse of automotive batteries.

Both companies have served in leadership roles as the world prepares for the potential widespread adoption of EVs.

Duke Energy has been working closely with auto manufacturers, charging infrastructure companies, other electric utilities and the Electric Drive Transportation Association for several years. The company has sought to understand and influence the development of the EV customer experience, as well as impacts to the power grid.

In January 2010, ITOCHU became the first international board member of the Energy Systems Network, the Indianapolis-based organization behind Project Plug-IN. In May 2010, ITOCHU launched the Green Crossover Project in the Japanese city of Tsukuba. The purpose of this initiative is to develop an EV battery reuse business model, enhance energy management, and build the infrastructure necessary to enable EV quick-charging and streamlined customer billing transactions.