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Porsche: Battery repairability and reusability critical to sustainability

The Taycan all-electric sedan's battery pack was engineered to be easily serviceable and thus greener in the long run.

Porsche Battery Remanufacturing - sustainability
For Porsche, reusing and recycling battery modules is key to improving sustainability. 
Porsche

Soup to nuts, Porsche is aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2030, a goal as ambitious as it is admirable. To achieve this, the famed German automaker is electrifying its product portfolio and powering factories with renewable energy, but that's not all. Significant amounts of carbon can be culled during vehicle engineering by designing electric car batteries that are both repairable and reusable.

The Taycan sedan is Porsche's first all-electric production model, and it's a good one. Aside from being a joy to drive, this trendsetting four-door was built for the long haul. The car's battery pack, which has either 28 or 33 modules depending on specification, was engineered to be highly serviceable. Technicians can easily access these individual subassemblies and replace them if necessary.

The ability to service discrete components inside the battery means the entire assembly does not have to be replaced if something goes wrong. This makes the Taycan far more sustainable in the long run.

The Porsche Taycan's battery pack is massive, but serviced with relative ease.

Porsche

Battery modules can be swapped out with new ones, which is what the automaker will do under warranty, but remanufactured units will eventually be an option, too -- something Porsche is working on right now. While speaking with media during a press briefing in Germany last month, Peter Reck, product manager of aftersales at Porsche, said the idea is the same as installing a rebuilt starter motor or alternator today. These parts have been completely refurbished and tested to work as well as their new counterparts, yet they reuse many original components, which saves enormous amounts of energy and materials. 

The same principle is being applied to the Taycan. Used but proven modules can drop right into the battery pack, giving you a more affordable (though it's still too early to say how much more affordable) -- and much greener -- option if your car needs work and is out of warranty. And if you're wondering, mixing and matching new and used modules is no problem at all.

"The battery is developed to stay in the car over the whole lifecycle," Reck said. As the Tacyan's battery degrades over time and its range starts to taper off, new modules could be swapped in to provide a boost, but he explained that is not the plan right now. They're only looking to replace modules that have gone bad.

It's still early days, but fortunately for Porsche, technical issues with the Taycan's battery pack have been minimal, which is more than you can say about other automakers. According to Reck, the defect rate is "definitely flatter than expected" at less than 1%.

From stem to stern, Porsche wants to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Porsche

When service is required, faulty modules in the Taycan are identified first. After that, accessing the battery pack's nougaty, lithium-ion center is a fairly straightforward process. First, it gets unbolted from the car and lowered to an accessible height. Once it's free, Christian Brügger, a product engineer who spoke at the same press event, explained that around 160 screws need to be removed and a perimeter seal of adhesive breached. After that, the lid comes off and you can easily swap out modules, replace wiring bundles or perform other repairs.

Some special tools are required to crack open the Taycan's battery, including a scissor lift to lower and support the heavy pack. Reck said in Germany these tools cost about 40,000 euros, which is around $46,500. Beyond that, technicians need special training to do all this, of which there will be three tiers: qualified electricians, high-voltage technicians and high-voltage experts. Qualified electricians can perform basic EV service, like changing tires. High-voltage technicians are permitted to handle lithium-ion batteries that have been disconnected. And finally, like surgeons, high-voltage experts are permitted to work inside electric vehicle battery packs and do the most involved fixes.

In addition to making the Taycan's energy reservoir repairable, Porsche is developing second-life uses for modules that aren't up to snuff for automotive duty. "At least 80% of our defect[ive] batteries can be repaired," said Reck. However, if a module isn't fit for use in a vehicle, chances are it can still be pressed into service as a stationary energy storage device, where it could serve as a battery backup for a home or business when mainline power goes out, or help smooth out consumption peaks. At the earliest, high-voltage packs for second-life applications are expected to become available in the second half of the decade, so don't look for a Porsche-branded battery bank anytime soon.

Not every Taycan battery module will be good. Crash or water damage can render them unusable, but even if this is the case, Porsche is building a recycling infrastructure that will be able to recuperate more than 90% of the critical materials used in battery construction -- elements like cobalt, copper, manganese and nickel. These processes are currently under development at the Volkswagen Group's battery recycling pilot plant in Salzgitter, Germany.

The Taycan is leading the charge at Porsche. Engineering this car's battery pack to be repairable and reusable isn't necessarily groundbreaking, but it's still an important part of the automaker's drive to be carbon neutral by the end of this decade. What it learns from this will undoubtedly help Porsche make its future electrified vehicles even more efficient.

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