Every new technology creates new business opportunities. Now that there are more EVs on the road, there are more EV batteries that need to be reprocessed, rehabilitated, or repurposed. Just because a battery may no longer be suitable for use in an electric car doesn’t mean it isn’t fine for other uses. Figuring out which batteries can be fixed and refitted to an electric car and which are best suited for less demanding duty takes experience and a well thought out system.
Spiers New Technologies, or SNT for short, is an Oklahoma City start-up founded by Dirk Spiers. He is assisted by head of engineering Bryan Schultz and algorithms research engineer John Junger. The company website says, “We are always looking for bright, hands-on engineers, and technicians who are passionate about advanced batteries, electric vehicles and energy storage.” Not all the cool jobs in EV technology are in California.
In a recent conversation with Charged EVs, all three had lots to say about their business and why they are excited by it. President Dick Spiers says, “We call it life cycle management for advanced battery systems, and we offer the ‘4 R’ range of services within that – repair, remanufacturing, refurbishing and repurposing.
“It starts with the recovery of the core, which is the battery pack that comes out of a vehicle. We help the OEMs to bring all used cores to a central location and check them for any safety issues. Today, most of those packs are coming from dealers who have done warranty replacements and from things like test projects that have concluded. We collect all of the batteries’ data in the background, and have built some pretty advanced database management software.”
SNT has developed sophisticated diagnostic tools to help it identify which batteries can be reused and which need to be repurposed. He says most manufacturers take quite a lot of convincing before they accept SNT’s evaluations. “We recently had some very long discussions with one OEM about the accuracy of our process before they came around,” he says. “OEMs know their battery packs really, really well. They’re really smart engineers and they know their stuff.
“But I like to think of them as being like early mothers. They give birth to their battery pack and they know it better than anyone else. But at some point the batteries go out into the real world and things start to change. So we’re a bit like a daycare center that needs to prove that we’ll take care of their battery packs. Eventually we need to test them to be able to compare them to others, and because our testing methods may be different from the OEM’s, we need to explain why they are just as effective.”
Many of the battery packs SNT gets in are still perfectly fine for automotive use. Says Bryan Shultz, “We see packs that are still really good except for one problem that caused a system error. It’s not usually an independent cell that fails, because they’re manufactured to such a high standard. It’s usually a thermistor failure or a bolt on the bus bar that came loose, which are good candidates to be fixed and sent back to the original application.”
If a battery pack can’t be refurbished or repurposed, it still has many components that can be salvaged and re-used. SNT is becoming expert at harvesting parts that are still useful and reselling them on the secondary market. The company currently has 70,000 square feet of space at its Oklahoma City headquarters and is considering expanding.
Dick Spiers has carved out a new business for himself where none existed a few short years ago. He and his team have invented test procedures that are now gaining favor with manufacturers because they are fast and accurate. SNT is a true American success story.
Images by SNT