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CPP students invent sustainable battery system for low-cost hybrids

By Arturo Aguirre, April 27, 2020

Earlier this month, five students from the CPP Analytics and Marketing Insights Club were victorious at the Annual Gfk EV hackathon for their proposed service, dubbed Ion Upcycle, aimed at recycling lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles and hybrids.

Ion Upcycle is designed to convert used batteries from electric-powered vehicles like Tesla cars into new batteries for hybrid electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. This service would take “used” Tesla batteries and import them into current HEVs and PHEVs to increase the charge of the battery and milage range for hybrids. Instead of recycling the used batteries, the upcycle concept will take the excess energy in the battery and the battery’s full potential.

The student winning team consisted of club members: Jillian Munoz, a fourth-year psychology student; Patrick Ogaz, a fourth-year computer information systems student; Grant Chic, a third-year marketing student; Sebastian Hernandez, a fourth-year marketing student; and Andrea Escobar Vara, a fourth-year marketing student.

“80% of a Tesla battery that may be considered ‘dead’ or ‘not usable’ could be in perfect condition, it’s just that 20% that doesn’t work,” Ogaz, AMI club president said. “What we’re proposing is take that 80% and maybe make three or four plug-in hybrid batteries that are smaller, because they don’t need as much since it has a gas engine for long distances and help get people more used to the infrastructure of electric vehicles.”

Ion Upcycle analyzed major companies like Tesla and their methods of disposing old batteries and discovered the solution to reuse old batteries. Lithium-ion batteries contain plenty of toxic waste, and the batteries are normally recycled, dumped into landfills or melted down. According to Ogaz, this can cost companies more money, and the chemicals inside the battery, when released into the environment, can cause significant damage.

In an article written by American Environmental Landfill, many batteries contain toxic chemicals like lead, lithium and cadmium. Disposing batteries improperly can cause long-term contamination of soil and surface water and can increase the risk of cancer.

According to club member Andrea Vara, Ion Upcycle envisions a new market of low-cost HEVs and PHEVs and making them more affordable for future generations to purchase.

“The younger generation are the ones that actually want to do something to help the planet, but since they’re the youngest ones, they don’t have capital to buy it,” said Vara.

According to club Vice President Jillian Munoz, they are currently speaking with Growth for Knowledge representatives to potentially advance their work.

Munoz and Ogaz received an invitation to speak on a podcast alongside representatives from Kia and Team One called, “Thinking Ahead.”

“We got offered by a GfK professional to talk to the Cal Poly Pomona teams, not us not just the one who won, and he wants to talk to us about how we can further the projects,” said Munoz. “That’s no offering of a deal or promise of collaboration or anything like that, but we are still in communication with GfK, and I think someone will be a guest speaker soon for the club, and hopefully he can give us some more guidance on that.”

With the event now passed, AMI Club members are discussing the future of Ion Upcycle and hope they can advance their findings. The club is hopeful that its system has the potential to make a difference for the future

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