Visit Yellowstone National Park after this fall, and you’ll be able to partake in zero-emissions energy technology courtesy of Toyota. The park will employ used Toyota Camry hybrid batteries, which are no longer suitable for automotive purposes, to help power its Lamar Buffalo Ranch field campus.
There are significant environmental concerns surrounding the fate of used hybrid batteries once their lifespan runs out in cars. While there are initiatives in place to responsibly recycle hybrid batteries, Toyota and Yellowstone were able to team up and create a stationary distributed energy system using 208 Toyota Camry Hybrid nickel-metal battery packs. Each unit can store 85 kWh, which combined is plenty to power the Ranch campus’ five buildings.
The batteries, which store energy harvested from solar panels and micro-hydro turbine systems, will be in service twice as long as usual thanks to this new application. Furthermore, the energy system is completely emission-free and self-sustaining.
General Motors tinkered with something similar with a grid-tied power inverter in 2011, involving 33 used Chevrolet Volt batteries. Although the Volt battery packs were no longer viable in vehicles, they maintained up to 70 percent of their original energy capacity. General Motors assembled a prototype energy storage system that could supply enough energy to support the average usage of about five homes.
Toyota has been repurposing old batteries in this fashion in Japanese dealerships since 2013, and the brand’s Alabama manufacturing facility is currently testing the technology as a back-up power system in case of emergency. Yellowstone first became involved with Toyota in 2004, when four Toyota Prius vehicles were donated into park service. Later, in 2007, Toyota donated a Camry hybrid and a Highlander hybrid to Yellowstone’s fleet. Most recently, Toyota donated a RAV 4 (pictured) to the Lamar Buffalo Ranch.