Jacob Hamar couldn’t stop thinking about how high-voltage batteries used in battery development at the BMW Group were removed from prototypes after just a short time, taken away and recycled. “These batteries are like new and can be used perfectly well for storing renewable energy for many years to come,” says Jacob. The doctoral candidate from Oregon quickly came up with a solution. Together with his colleague Sabrina Kolbeck from MINI, he developed a concept for the project PowerUp, which the two of them will launch at a school in Rosslyn, South Africa in 2022.
PowerUp is based on the idea of creating a powerful energy storage block out of six high-voltage batteries from former development vehicles. These store solar power from the photovoltaic system on the roof and supply the school with 36 kW per day of clean electricity. “That’s enough to run about 38 computers, 100 light bulbs and a water pump,” says Sabrina. It would even be enough to charge an electric car. At the BMW Group site in Rosslyn, nothing is taken for granted. “People here often go without electricity for two to four hours at a time – and almost 90 percent of the power they use still comes from fossil fuels,” Sabrina adds. Thanks to the high-voltage batteries from Munich, the school was not only able to reduce its electricity costs, but also lower its CO2 emissions by 40 tons a year.
Until the school in Soshanguve opens with the support of the BMW Group, back in Bavaria, Sabrina and Jacob will use this time to make the final technical adjustments to the energy storage block. Then, the battery storage unit will be shipped to South Africa and installed on site in Rosslyn. “We are working with local partners and consciously sharing our sustainable technologies with them,” says Jacob.
The school is just the first step for Sabrina and Jacob, but the two of them are already planning for the future. “We are passionate about social projects at BMW Group sites – but we also want to help as many people as possible in off-grid areas access renewable energies so they can achieve greater growth and autonomy,” confides Sabrina. That is why they now plan to scale their idea in cooperation with internal and external partners for maximum effect. Initial talks are already underway worldwide.
The BMW Group is supporting the project founded by these two young talents. PowerUp has been part of the BMW Group’s Accelerator intrapreneurship programme for promoting innovative social models since 2019. Sabrina and Jacob have also been nominated as delegates to the “One Young World Summit”, a global network of more than 1,800 young leaders committed to a better society and a sustainable environment.