Second Life-Po

Rob Bell

Issue 33, April 2020

Can we leverage the simplest form of recycling to reduce one of the most controversial aspects of Lithium batteries?

Perhaps one of the biggest issues we face with all the Lithium rechargeable batteries in our current technology is their limited life span. However, while we become frustrated by our smartphone not holding charge for an entire day, this is an aspect of Lithium technology that’s unlikely to change any time soon. Their performance naturally reduces over time, and that’s an expected (and accepted) part of the battery chemistry.

Unfortunately though, this limited lifespan may mean that a battery is no longer useful for the phone, laptop, or whatever technology it was first installed in. Rarely, however, is the battery entirely unusable. It merely needs to find its “next purpose”.

Just as used cars aren’t instantly scrapped and melted down into soup cans, since they still have a practical purpose, the same approach applies to Lithium batteries.

It’s important to remember that our typical approach of recycling (whereby everything is broken back down to its raw materials for repurposing) isn’t the only way to get more life out of these batteries.

This concept is certainly not new, however, we appear to have forgotten about this simple re-use process. The best part? No crazy waste management, no additional carbon footprint, huge wins all around!

Just like the milkman and glass bottles were retired for disposable (or at least recyclable) cartons, our current idea of recycling still appears to lead us to this “breakdown and rebuild” style.

But there must be a simpler way?

It’s important to realise that the battery itself, even if only operating at 50% efficiency, can often still be used that way for a considerable amount of time. Say you have a 10,000mAh LiPo battery operating at 50%, that’s still equivalent to a 5,000mAh battery.

Predictably, these batteries which are no longer new and have a reduced capacity when compared to their labelled and original capacity, are generally considered to be “dead”, despite them still having HUGE potential. Indeed, there’s a local Aussie company proving this concept true.

Relectrify is a Melbourne based company that is revolutionising the battery storage industry.

With over 15-patents contributing to their industry-leading technology, they’re changing the way battery storage and delivery is approached.

By improving the quality of the battery management system, Relectrify’s solutions don’t suffer the same reductions in output traditional solutions may struggle with when a single bad cell is in the system.

Unlike typical battery management systems that only have a few connection points in the bank of cells, Relectrify’s patented technology treats cells similarly to a cluster of servers. If one cell needs to be pulled offline for some reason, it can be done with absolutely minimal effect to the overall bank.

This key difference, while incredibly powerful to any battery bank (even brand new cells), simplifies the process of implementing used cells into a bank. Without the risk of one bad cell causing underperformance, the process of grading and testing used cells for inclusion becomes markedly simpler.

This granular monitoring also greatly improves the safety of the bank. If a fault occurs with any particular cell it can be disconnected from the system. If you’re familiar with regular battery bank configurations, generally cells are hardwired together. A fault in one cell can take a portion or the entirety of the bank offline. In critical circumstances, it can create overheating and fire situations, which are an obvious hazard.

One of the partnerships Relectrify has forged is with Nissan, for retired packs from retired Nissan Leaf electric vehicles. Naturally, these are a powerful and soon to be abundant source of LiPo cells, not to mention the growing source of electric vehicles hitting the market.

Relectrify is forging powerful strategic partnerships to reduce the cost of battery storage technology on the market. Naturally, their systems couple with the latest in technology including over the air software updates for the BMS, as well as a host of communications standards to keep the information flowing (especially in large scale installations).

From our perspective, Relectrify is challenging the current approach of developing and deploying battery banks, while solving some of the most critical aspects hindering the re-use of used cells. Their systems are scalable and can easily stack to 100 modules, providing several megawatts of output power.

We applaud what we’re seeing from Relectrify, proving some amazing Aussie talent can stand tall on a global stage.

You can read more about the great work Relectrify is doing at

Rob Bell

Rob Bell

Editor in Chief, Maker and Programmer