SFU grads turn EV batteries into sustainable energy
VANCOUVER -- Sumreen Rattan and her friends spend a lot of time in her parents’ garage in Surrey. Surrounded by blinking lights, little black boxes and computers, the four Simon Fraser University engineering graduates spend their days tinkering away, the garage door open to let in air and light.
It’s exactly what it looks like – a garage start-up.
Rattan and her classmates Eddy Chiang, Gabriel Soares and Gurmesh Sidhu started Moment Energy in January of this year. They’re all in their early 20s and had worked together on a school project before deciding to go into business together.
Now, they’re rejigging defunct electric vehicle batteries to provide sustainable energy for remote communities.
“We have a relationship with Nissan North America,” Rattan explains. “The batteries that we’re using, they came out of a Nissan Leaf.”
The automaker sells the team the old batteries after car owners see a drop in range and they have to be replaced. Then, Rattan and her colleagues repurpose them.
“We add in some mechanical components, some other safety components, and then we put it in a mechanical enclosure and sell it to our customers,” Rattan says. “Currently we're selling to off-grid customers, so in this case renewable energy providers, such as solar companies. They serve communities which aren't connected to utilities the way we are.”
Before the pandemic, the group had a different plan. They’d intended to sell their batteries to outdoor events, like music festivals, that depend on diesel generators.
“They're not only bad for the environment but they're also noisy and harmful,” Rattan says. “They release harmful emissions for people standing nearby.”
But once the pandemic hit, they had to pivot.
“Any start-up knows that you have to be quick to think on your feet and be able to move,” Rattan says. “If one problem hits somewhere you have to come up with a solution in another place. So we did.”
Now, the team has a test project running at the University of Winnipeg and they’re looking further down the line. Rattan says her parents don’t mind that she’s taken over the garage for the foreseeable future.
“Our parents are actually really supportive. In the beginning, I think they were a little bit more skeptical,” she says. “I think that in two years we'll have to sit down with our parents again and show them where we've gotten, and at that point I'm hoping that we'll be revenue positive and they'll see that this is going somewhere.”