ABB, maker of heavy duty electrical equipment, will work with General Motors to develop secondary uses for electric car batteries.
ABB's portion of the work will be handled out of its research center at N.C. State University's Centennial Campus, said spokesman Bill Rose.
The lithium ion batteries that will power the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf have an estimated life span of about a decade. Though the batteries will still be able to hold an electric charge, over time they will drain more quickly and become less efficient, requiring replacement with fresh batteries.
The "spent" electric batteries could supply the missing link in the nation's power grid by providing a system for storing power, a technology that has so far eluded scientists and the power industry.
ABB, with offices in Raleigh and Cary, makes power transmission and distribution equipment, such as substations and transmission lines, as well as the software and hardware used to manage electricity flowing through the power grid.
The company, which relocated its North American headquarters to Cary from Connecticut last year, employs about 775 people in North Carolina, including about 550 in the Triangle.
The joint research project between ABB and the Detroit maker of the Chevy Volt will look at ways to configure spent auto batteries so that they can store excess energy from solar farms and wind farms, said Sandeep Bala, an ABB research engineer in Raleigh.
The project will also look at charging the batteries at night, when the grid is awash in cheap surplus power, and using that electricity during the day, when demand spikes and energy costs are at their highest.
As part of the project, ABB will build a storage device from lithium ion batteries and test it next year.