Making it Work

Engineers seek to raise €500k to turn old car batteries into green power units

The Irish social enterprise is aiming to replace petrol and diesel generators with a range of products powered by repurposed electric car batteries

Eamon Stack, co-founder Range Therapy: ‘We need to get rid of noisy diesel generators, and we want to have fast chargers for cars without having to draw on the grid all the time’

An Irish social enterprise is aiming to raise at least €500,000 to develop a series of products it believes can replace petrol and diesel generators with a cheaper, more environmentally friendly alternative.

Range Therapy was founded by Barry McMahon and Eamon Stack, a pair of engineers with years of experience between them.

The idea underpinning the firm – which is not a commercial entity, Stack explained – began more than 15 years ago, when they began equipping older electric motorbikes with newer batteries.

“Over time, we started to do the same thing with cars,” Stack told the Business Post. “We started working with a business in the Netherlands to upgrade the battery packs of older Nissan Leaf cars in Ireland.”

The next step came when Stack and McMahon realised that they could expand the ambition of their product because of the number of second-hand batteries in Ireland.

“We grasped that there were going to be a lot of second-hand batteries available – within five years we will have 10,000 used batteries available every year, in Ireland. And that will go up to 50,000,” Stack said.

“So on the one hand we have the problem of how to get rid of the batteries that are no longer suitable for cars, but that are ideal for energy storage. And on the other hand we have needs – we need to get rid of noisy diesel generators, and we want to have fast chargers for cars without having to draw on the grid all the time.”

Last week, the firm launched a line of products designed to meet both of those needs.

Range Trailers – unveiled at the National Ploughing Championships by Ossian Smyth, Minister of State in the Department of the Environment – are portable power platforms which offer a clean source of energy to farmers, retailers and homeowners.

The devices, currently at prototype phase, are made from old, repurposed batteries and can store energy for up to a year, which means users can avoid paying peak rates to fire up generators. They also require no maintenance, and offer a cleaner alternative to petrol and diesel.

In another bonus, Range Trailers are programmed to check the weather forecast and decide whether to charge overnight using cheap night-rate electricity or to wait and use solar-powered energy the following day. The Range Trailer has been shortlisted for an Innovation Arena award from Enterprise Ireland.

As well as the mobile units, Range Therapy is also developing a static version of the same product, which uses the same technology but can be bolted to a wall.

Stack and McMahon are not seeking to make money out of their invention – “we’re not out for a fast buck,” Stack said. But it believes the company can become profitable and is targeting social investors as part of its funding round.

It is also working with Enterprise Ireland and expects the government to invest in its technology in order to scale up production and move to market.

“The challenge for us is that our prototype has to be translated into production in the next two years,” Stack said.

“Our product is a significant benefit to the government and can help them deliver on their own climate policies. So we would expect the government to be significant funders.”