Thousands of old laptop batteries used to power coffee van

Thousands of old laptop batteries used to power coffee van

By Lucy Jones  November 2nd, 2021

Using electronic waste to make lattes.


A social enterprise in Queensland has recovered thousands of battery cells from discarded laptops to build a coffee van battery. The device is made from over 1000 recycled laptop cells and 13 solar panels and was built by volunteers at Substation 33.

This battery sits above a trailer equipped with a coffee machine and it is capable of powering a small two bedroom home. It was made by taking apart laptop batteries and testing their components to find working cells, then using these to assemble a new battery.

"Typically in a battery, you will have six 18650 cells, which are kind of like double AA batteries. What happens is, one or two of them die, which essentially makes an entire battery pack useless. When you pull them all apart, you can test one and take out the remaining good cells," PowerWells co-founder Brad Clair, who worked on the project with Substation 33, explained.

Substation 33 is an electronic waste recycling centre that runs volunteer repair programs for electronic waste. The social enterprise also provides employment opportunities for disadvantaged people in the community.

Substation 33 supports a number of recycling projects including one that refurbishes computers to deliver electronic learning opportunities in Papua New Guinea. The recycling centre has used e-waste to build remote charging stations, power electric bikes and make bluetooth speakers, among other things.

The van has been used at community events to give local YMCA hospitality students work experience on the coffee machine. It is also spreading the message of the environmental and social benefits of recycling and reuse.

"A lot of companies, individuals and schools bring their old e-waste here, and then there is an opportunity for people to learn some new skills," Brad said.

"It was made by some of the volunteers here (at Substation 33). We taught them how to do it, and they did the rest and assembled it themselves."

Next week, National Recycling Week is celebrating its 25th year of helping Aussies recycle their e-waste and much, much more. To find out more and great involved head to

Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


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Lucy Jones

Lucy started her career working as a writer and editor in print and digital publishing. She went on to create content for Australia's leading sustainable fashion platform while completing her Master of Cultural Studies. Lucy spends her downtime at the beach, crocheting and hanging out with her cat Larry. She believes words can change the world and is stoked to help Planet Ark spread the message of positive environmental change.

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