Electric vehicles are becoming more and more important to the future of a green planet Earth, with production and sales increasing worldwide. Vehicle manufacturers the world over are making electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles a priority, and adjunct companies focusing on recharging and distance calculations are popping up all over the place.
Arguably the key component for any electric vehicle is its battery, a nickel-metal hydride battery in many cases.
However, batteries have also proved to be a sticking point when it comes to the ‘actual’ greenness of an electric vehicle; battery creation is an intensive process, and then — at the end of a battery’s lifespan — there is the question of how to dispose of it.
One of these issues may be on the way out, however, according to Honda, which has announced on its website that it has established the world’s first process (according to Honda internal research) that reuses rare earth metals extracted from nickel-metal hydride batteries in the creation of new nickel-metal hydride batteries.
One of the key elements of a nickel-metal hydride battery is the use of rare earth metals like Lanthanum. Honda has now managed to extract an oxide containing rare earth metals from used nickel-metal hydride batteries at the Japan Metals & Chemicals company (JMC).
The process involves applying molten salt electrolysis to the oxide from the battery, allowing them to extract metallised rare earth that can be used directly as negative-electrode materials for nickel-metal hydride batteries.
The rare earth metals extracted have a purity of more than 99%, which is as high as that of ordinarily traded and newly mined rare earth metals. On top of that, the new process enables the extraction of as much as 80% of rare earth metals contained in a nickel-metal hydride battery.
Honda isn’t just leaving this in the laboratory, either. Honda plans to use the extracted rare earth metals from JMC in new batteries as early as this month, as negative-electrode materials.
The current batch of rare earth metals were harvested from 386 Honda hybrid vehicles, which were stored prior to being on sale, but which were subsequently damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Minus a handy supply of unused and damaged hybrids sitting in a warehouse somewhere, Honda plans to begin using the new process on batteries collected by Honda dealers through battery replacements. The company also hopes to extract rare earth materials from various used parts to further how much it is recycling.