New advances in lithium-ion batteries are making energy storage more effcient, less expensive, and more ready for a deep plunge into the mass market. With application far beyond electric cars – think cell phones, laptops, grid storage, power tools, and even lawn mowers – it is only a matter of time before the world is awash in billions of used lithium-ion batteries.
The emerging lithium-ion battery recycling industry has a lot of catching up to do, but at least two companies are rising to meet the challenge of making the technology more sustainable, Toxco Inc in the U.S. and Nippon Mining & Metals Co Ltd in Japan, both of which are developing new recycling processes.
Recycling Lithium-Ion Batteries
In Japan, Nippon Mining & Metals is aiming to be the first company in the world to extract lithium and manganese from used lithium-ion batteries on a commercial scale, along with cobalt and nickel. A test plant is opening this year with full production planned for 2010. Meanwhile, in the U.S. ecogeek reports that Toxco has just won a $9.5 million grant from the Department of Energy to develop a more efficient recycling process that would be applicable to car-sized batteries as well as smaller batteries.
A Race Against Time for Recycling Lithium-Ion Batteries
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy reported that the high cost of lithium-ion batteries is at least one major barrier to their mass market appeal. Other unresolved issues are performance, hardiness, and life cycle – which includes recycling. As these barriers fall one by one, life cycle and recycling will ultimately determine whether lithium-ion batteries are truly a more sustainable answer to the world’s power storage needs.
Image: pawpaw67 on flickr.com.
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