Repurposing EV batteries with Moment Energy

In part one of a three-part series on circular economy technologies, we unpack how the local cleantech startup takes on energy storage solutions.

Co-founders of Moment Energy, from left to right: Gabriel Soares, CTO; Sumreen Rattan, COO; Eddy Chiang, CEO; Gurmesh Sidhu, CPO. Photo: Moment Energy

Moment Energy, a startup founded by four SFU mechatronics engineering alumni in 2019, has come a long way from building energy storage solutions out of one of its co-founders’ garages in Surrey. The company has raised a $3.5 million dollar seed round, grown to 35 staff, and just moved into a new facility in Coquitlam. The startup takes retired EV batteries and transforms them into an energy storage solution, and has recently deployed its tech in B.C., Alberta, and Manitoba. Here’s how the team did it.

Partnering with the world’s automakers

In Canada, EV owners are responsible for recycling their vehicle — at costs upwards of thousands of dollars, said Eddie Chiang, co-founder and CEO of Moment Energy. But North American legislation is moving forward to allow consumers to send their EV battery back to the dealership to become the responsibility of the automaker.

Automakers worldwide have end-of-life facilities responsible for the intake of batteries. Here, they test each module for its state of health — an indicator of the degradation and remaining capacity of the battery. Those that are good enough to repurpose can be sent to Moment Energy, where the facility can work with any automakers’ parts, said Chiang.

“We're the only Canadian company working with Nissan, and we’re the only North American company working with automakers like Mercedes,” he tells Vancouver Tech Journal. “When the batteries have been validated by the automaker and disassembled as well, they're sent to us here at Moment, where we will do our own validation.”

Moment Energy’s Flora energy storage solution. Photo: Moment Energy

Moment Energy looks for an at least 80 percent state of health in these batteries, said Chiang. From here, the company employs its own engineering to retrofit the individual batteries into a holistic energy storage solution. This includes patented safety systems for hardware and software to ensure that the solution doesn’t fail.

Finding product-market fit, off and on the grid

Recently, Moment Energy’s storage solutions have largely been used in off-grid settings. Its latest commercial deployment took place at God’s Pocket, a scuba diving eco resort on the northern end of Vancouver Island. Moment Energy’s battery storage tech capitalizes on the inefficiencies of diesel generators. Through the company’s storage solution, the resort could reduce its diesel consumption, and power its facilities in a much quieter manner.

The Moment Energy team pictured at God’s Pocket. Photo: Moment Energy

“What we're doing is we're charging our batteries up for two hours with a lot of the waste energy that's being emitted by the diesel generator,” said Chiang. “Now, our battery systems last 60 hours by cutting off that diesel generator altogether.”

The startup is looking at urban applications, too. The increased adoption of EVs means increased power drawn from the grid, and this can be costly, especially when EV charging lines up with peak electricity demand time.

“Utilities are fining these commercial industrial buildings hundreds of thousands of dollars a year,” said Chiang. “Typically the average is $600,000 a year in peak demand charges.. There's a great need for not just energy storage, but high-power energy storage: a battery that can output an immense amount of power in a short amount of time. [...] Our batteries are really well-suited to help serve those peaks and we can ideally save them $600,000 a year in their utility bills.”

Eyeing scale through development

Moment Energy now looks towards safety certification — UL in North America and CSA in Canada — for its energy storage solution to establish credibility in the market. The stamp of approval would allow the company to hook up its batteries to the grid and discharge energy. But the company is also pursuing safety certification for its manufacturing facility to help scale its operations.

“Right now, we're on track to have this facility here in Port Coquitlam be the only UL-certified facility where it is safe for us to take in batteries, test the batteries, reassemble them into our product, and then ship them out,” said Chiang. “And any batteries that essentially want to be UL certified will have to come through our facility, which is really interesting.”

Moment Energy’s team, pictured with the minister of rural economic development, Gudie Hutchings, and MP of Coquitlam/Port Coquitlam, Ron Mckinnon. Photo: Moment Energy

This has led to relationships with a variety of automakers, particularly those that don’t necessarily have a large supply of EV batteries today. “They're sending us even their newer batteries or their R&D batteries so that we can help them devise their second-life strategy,” said Chiang. “So in two-to-three years, when they have a huge supply, we're already ready; we can hit the ground running, and we can already start selling their second-life batteries across multiple markets as well.”

Towards a global energy transition

Chiang shares that Moment Energy is in discussion to secure its Series A funding after a successful seed round a number of years ago. Part of this money will support plans to build a manufacturing facility in every major market.

“We're already looking at a 100,000-plus square-foot location — we’re identifying some locations all across North America, ”said Chiang. “We already have partners in Asia, such as in Japan, South Korea, and in China as well, where we'll be locating a larger manufacturing facility [...] around there.”

Chiang sees Moment Energy’s focus on distributed energy as pivotal to its growth. He describes it in two manners. The first covers energy storage solutions outside of the city — “football fields-worth of energy storage”— to help augment rural energy demands. The second looks to more urban settings, where every house and facility has smaller, “cabinet-size” solutions.

“You can actually really intelligently discharge cheap energy because maybe you got it from solar that you stored the day before, or because you stored energy at 3:00 a.m.when everybody's asleep,” said Chiang. “And then discharging it at, let's say, 3:00 p.m., when everybody is using a lot of energy.

“More and more people are turning on their ACs, more and more people are driving electric vehicles, which is great for decarbonisation,” he continues. “But again, our grid is really old [...] What we see is we're really helping with the transition and really meeting the demands of when the grid is being overtaxed.”

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