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Renewable electricity with recycled batteries

This topic contains 19 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Jose 2 years ago.

Olivier xxxolivierxxx

Renewable electricity with recycled batteries

24/05/2018 at 08:23

One project I have been working on for a while is to build my own “DIY Tesla Powerwall” using recycled 18650 cells from disposed laptop batteries.
When a laptop battery dies, its usually the BMS (charge controller) or some of its cells, but in most cases some of the cells are still alive and could be given a second chance.

It would be awesome for project kamp to have their own powerwall made with recycled batteries and charged with solar panels or wind power.

Here are some more resources if anyone is interested:

*Peter Matthews, my favorite powerwall builder from Australia and one of the fathers of this movement:

*Jehu García, another great collaborator with great content about 18650 batteries management:

*Average Joe, a normal guy who got started in this project and uploads cool videos of his journey on building his DIY powerwall:

*VICE interview to Jehu García:

*Official DIY Powerwalls forum

*Official Facebook group for DIY Powerwalls, lots of helpful people here:

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24/05/2018 at 08:24

Here are some pictures of how the end result looks like:

24/05/2018 at 08:26


24/05/2018 at 08:27


24/05/2018 at 08:28


24/05/2018 at 13:37

wow i love the colours!!
i don’t know much about this topic but, being able to recycle batteries for another use is just brilliant!

24/05/2018 at 19:35

Laptop batteries have a minimum of 4 cells, normally they have 6 and in some cases, big batteries might contain 10 of them. When a battery dies, in 90% of the times they still have good cells that can be reused for several years if they are charged and discharged appropiately. Sometimes, you get 5 good cells out of 6, or 4 good cells out of 6, and in very rare cases all cells are dead (mostly on batteries that were thrown away years ago)

The project requires patience because you have to individually test each cell: Discharge, fully charge, discharge again to measure capacity, monitor temperature, sort cells by capacity, etc… but its an extremely enjoyable hobbie and something I love about it is that all laptop batteries have cells with different brands, and each brand have their own unique color codings (sleeves), so you can make your battery packs with your own unique color patterns.

Once you dissasemble a battery you end up with:

*Good cells that can be reused
*Bad cells that can be disposed appropiately on a recycling center that accepts lithium batteries
*ABS plastic, because pretty much every laptop battery case is made with ABS (and its an awesome material to work with the shredder and make new things with great strenght)
*A little piece of electronic waste, which is the PCB
*A few small strands of copper wire
*A few small pieces of zinc metal strip

Being able to sort all that leftover material and make sure it is disposed properly is another great score when working with 18650 batteries

24/05/2018 at 19:39

Some more resouces:

How to separate good cells from bad cells

How many cells have we saved from land fill ?

Taking batteries appart

25/05/2018 at 03:12

Really Great Post. Energy storage would be key for Kamp success. I’ve read into 18650 and have seen a lot of great stories along the way and was literally just about to post the same thing. The thing about a Powerwall is that it is modular just like Precious plastic project. You could integrate Powerwall into a lot of things like electric cars to help build sustainability. 18650 would be a perfect fit and goes along with everything that is Dave Hakkens.

I really liked your article.

25/05/2018 at 14:43

Super post let’s see what happen now…
Did you already start something?


Ps. You give 2 times the same link in the initial post for 2 different youtuber

25/05/2018 at 19:14

Thanks for the heads-up @dbougas, I just corrected Jehu García’s channel

Yes, I already started to build my 18650 battery packs but my project is going very slow, finding electronic recyclers in Costa Rica who are willing to give or sell batteries is hard because most of them have agreements that force them to ensure that every electronic piece they get from their customers is sent to a recycling center overseas and its recycled properly, so by giving me those batteries they would be violating that agreement.

I found 1 guy who can get me 50 or 70 batteries every 4 months but he charges $1 per battery and sometimes my wallet is like https://giphy.com/gifs/confused-travolta-poor-wallet-3o6UB5RrlQuMfZp82Y

31/05/2018 at 23:14

While I do like the idea of repurposed DIY Lithium Ion battery packs,  I have a suggestion of another (parallel) line of research.

Some people have been looking into the revival of Alkaline Nickel-Iron Battery technology.

The Open Source Ecology Wiki even has a Nickel-Iron battery R&D section – although thier work seems to have faultered a little because of concerns about the possible toxicity implications of working with Nickel Oxide powder.  Personally, I think they may be worrying too much – and should instead be developing safer ways to work with the material.

I’m actually old enough to have worked with Nickel Iron batteries – as they were often used for emergency backup power on ships.  As a young marine engineering cadet, in the late 1970s, I remember having to check and top up the alkaline electrolyte in a large bank of cells on one particular ship.  These may have been some of the very last manufactured by Exide – before they shut down the old Edison battery plant.

01/06/2018 at 06:14

@frogfall sounds like a good alternative, how many amp hours can you get from one of those batteries?

01/06/2018 at 13:40

I don’t know what those old batteries gave – but I suspect they would have been around 100 Ah units, comparing them to the modern Chinese versions.

A NiFe cell has a nominal voltage of 1.2V – so clusters of 5 (like in the photo) would have given 6V, and that double pack (shown above) would probably have been used for 12V storage.

A modern manufacturer, such as Changhong Battery in China has a range of NiFe cells in sizes from 10 Ah to 1000 Ah.  Some are exported, but most consumption seems to be within China – possibly for rural PV solar installations (farm and village scale).

Have a read of their NiFe Brochure.

01/06/2018 at 18:32

Some people, like this guy, and this guy, have been doing experiments using commerically available Nickel & Iron oxides (and Potassium Hydroxide) in order to create DIY designs for useable storage batteries.

The technology is now so old that no Western company will touch it – since the whole field of battery manufacture seems to be reliant on rival Intellectual Property Rights. Edison patented all this stuff over a 100 years ago – so the basic information to make viable NiFe cells is all in the public domain.

There is an interesting article, from a 1911 edition of Scientific American, here. Interestingly, some of the batteries built to the old Edison designs, and fitted to electric cars, are still working today – after 100 years of service! 😉

01/06/2018 at 23:33

That’s pretty interesting, the low battery voltage seems like a downside but I guess you can just hook up multiple cells in series to make 12v or 24v which is what most inverters use. I read on one of those links you posted that “Charge Is about 13-15 watt hours per pound of cells”.
In my house I use around 20kwh every 24hrs so I would need around 1400 pounds to satisfy my minimun consumption. On one hand the batteries seem to be pretty easy and cheap to build, but seems like space requirements is a downside if you need a lot of power.

01/06/2018 at 23:47

Yeah, the low power density means that you need a lot of space.  Probably fine in a farm shed, but not very convenient in an apartment.  Recycled Lithium cells are probably a much better option for many people (if you can actually manage to get a decent source for them).  😉

(p.s. I’ve just fixed the link to the Open Source Ecology Wiki)

12/06/2018 at 21:21

Im curious, do you have a method for finding cells once they go bad? Is there any sort of smart way to determine this or do you just have to go through and check every cell on every string?

It would be interesting to design a system in which single cells could be easily swapped when they are damaged. Have you ever seen any solderless/weldless designs for making bulk battery banks like this?

12/06/2018 at 22:40


Im curious, do you have a method for finding cells once they go bad? Is there any sort of smart way to determine this or do you just have to go through and check every cell on every string?

*Before making a powerwall: You have to test each cell individually to determine their capacity, resistance, and overall health state
*After making a powerwall: Your BMS (battery monitoring system) allows you to actively monitor each pack of cells. If one pack of cells is heating or discharging faster than the other pack, you can remove the pack from your powerwall and then test the cells of that pack to find out which cell is/are the bad one. Another method is to use an infrared camera and spot any cells that are heating abnormally and discard those.

It would be interesting to design a system in which single cells could be easily swapped when they are damaged.

There are already some alternatives such as the VRUZEND battery kits but they tend to be problematic because its hard to make sure all of your 100/200 cells are properly making contact in the + and – ends, and the contacts tend to become loose after some time.

Have you ever seen any solderless/weldless designs for making bulk battery banks like this?
*Yes, there are lots of alternatives, but DIY powerwall builders usually end up soldering each cell to the busbars

18/06/2018 at 14:13

Hi @xxxolivierxxx
This is a very interesting thread.

I spent several years reading almost all the information that there is on the internet about renewable energies, especially those systems that claimed that were very efficient.

For batteries, you have the Bedini’s system and a system called “capacitive battery charger”. Both of those systems seem to be interesting.

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