As the EV industry continues to grow, the reality of recyclability for these vehicles’ unique used batteries is at the forefront of the minds of many in recycling and the auto industry. The process of recycling lithium-ion batteries is complex, and the growth of EVs is so recent that recyclers are still working on finding economically viable ways of reusing the metal components of these batteries. Since cars powered by lithium-ion batteries are only just coming into mass-market use, recycling centers capable of recovering their components are also in their infancy. None of the lithium-ion batteries found in electric cars are recyclable the way that paper, glass, and lead-based auto batteries are.
Moreover, due to the small base of EV batteries to recycle, this is currently economically unviable for recyclers. Adding up means that although an electric vehicle battery can potentially go into a recycling plant, it is no guarantee the lithium will ever be recovered, unless there is an economic incentive to do so.
Nissan has been working with energy management company Eaton so Nissan vehicle batteries can be reused for household energy storage instead of being recycled, and this basic issue is the biggest reason. Some companies have begun efforts to repurpose these high-voltage, highly flammable EV batteries for solar power storage and other backup energy applications, rebuilding batteries using a mix of re-used and new parts. Electric car makers are making major investments in giving vehicle batteries new lives in utility-scale battery storage systems.
To address an inevitable increase in that waste stream, manufacturers and proponents of electric vehicles are hyping up the potential of these batteries being repurposed once they reach the end of their useful lives in vehicles. In addition, current generations of electric car batteries can still have between 60 to 70 percent usable power remaining, providing the potential to reuse them. At the moment, vehicle manufacturers like Honda, Tesla, General Motors, and Nissan have created facilities for recycling batteries from automobile manufacturers like Hondas respective EVs.
Barriers to reuse and recycling batteries in zero-emission vehicles may be greater, partly because a developed market for used batteries has yet to emerge, nor has a regulatory framework. An advisory panel within the state Legislature is developing recommendations on the reusability or recycling of EV batteries. B. Straubel, has launched Redwood Materials, one of the crowds of new startups racing to tackle an issue that does not yet exist; how to recycle the EV batteries that are going to pass their use-by date.
While electric cars are recognized for cutting carbon emissions – particularly if powered by renewables – we are still
getting lots of questions around the lifespan of EV batteries, and if they are going to wind up in a landfill, potentially
undermining EVs green credentials. All these electric cars are powered by batteries, and as they reach the end of their
lifetime, they may be going into the trash, as a toxic waste product. There are roughly 10 million battery-powered vehicles
on the road today, and the International Energy Agency expects that by the end of the decade, there could be 230 million.
Every year in the U.S., millions of disposable and rechargeable batteries are bought, used, and recycled, or placed in
landfills. This electric car boom may result in an estimated 11 metric tons of spent lithium-ion batteries that will require
recycling between now and 2030, according to Ajay Kochhar, CEO of Canadian battery recycling startup Li-Cycle. Toxco, the large lead-acid battery recycler, is about to open the first lithium-ion battery recycling plant in the US. Companies such as Tesla Motors, which has had a battery-powered electric sports car on the road for a couple of years, are already sending their spent batteries from Tesla to the Toxco facilities that are currently being processed.
A draft report imagines that many used batteries will be repurposed for electric storage–to hold solar power, say, when the sun is not shining–before being literally dismantled and recycled. The aim is to convert these batteries into a value-added resource that can help drive the transition to EV production in a sustainable way. Without cobalt, there might not be much of a financial incentive to recycle the huge batteries used to drive cars – and this could be a recipe for an environmental
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When it comes to extracting components from cars, testing them for quality, and carefully storing them so they aren’t exposed to the weather, auto recyclers with years of expertise know what they’re doing. The quality and reliability of an engine purchased from a private seller cannot be guaranteed.
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