Technology

The next great Canadian idea: Revived batteries

A resourceful Vancouverite finds a way to make "dead" car batteries live again and again.

More than 200 ideas were submitted for our second Great Canadian Invention Competition. While judging continues, we present three of the more intriguing entries and the brains behind them.

Revived batteries
Rob Matthies /// Vancouver, B.C.

Rob Matthies’ white 1982 GMC pickup truck isn’t anything special at first glance. But the words “Electric Powered Vehicle” printed on its tailgate may tip you off that something is up. The full extent of the truck’s oddness is apparent only when you peek under the hood. Thirty batteries — different sizes, voltages and brands — connected by a tangle of cables keep the vehicle running. What’s more, all of the batteries were previously dead or discarded. “Most people who own electric vehicles look at the battery box and can’t believe it works, because it’s like a dog’s breakfast,” Matthies says.

The Vancouver resident says he’s found a way to re-juice dead batteries, and the truck is proof of the method’s success. Matthies says he’s replaced only one of the truck’s batteries in more than a year. Depending on the type, a battery’s life can be extended by four to six times.

The 56-year-old alternative-school instructor admits he has less of a commercial bent than other inventors, and he’s reluctant to disclose exactly how the process works, but he’s willing to teach anyone who’s curious — for $100. Anyone can do it, he says. Well, almost. “If you’re not the kind of person who has patience and precision,” he says, “you will probably not be happy to do it.”