Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

CleanTechnica
Despite what critics might say, the electric vehicle battery isn't an environmental hazard: they can and should be recycled.

Batteries

The Electric Vehicle Battery “Can And Should Be Recycled”

Despite what critics might say, the electric vehicle battery isn’t an environmental hazard: they can and should be recycled.

Critics of electric vehicles like to argue that they’re really not greener than gas-powered cars: those tailpipe emissions just move to the source of electricity (which, in the US, is often coal or natural gas), and that electric vehicle battery will eventually require disposal. The first argument doesn’t take into account the efficiency of electric motors — which still means lower emissions — and the second ignores the fact that the batteries for EVs are recyclable.

Paul Nadjarian, the CEO of Mojo Motors, addressed the second issue last week in a post at sustainablog. Let us know what you think in the comments…

Battery Recycling: How We’ll Keep Electric Vehicle Batteries Out Of Landfills

electric cars charging

In an attempt to reduce carbon emissions, American policy makers set out to have one million electric plug-in vehicles on the road by 2015. While the environmental benefits of electric and hybrid vehicles are clear, they do come with certain challenges. By far the biggest challenge is figuring out what is to be done with the electric plug-in and hybrid batteries after they are finished being used.

The good news is that, according to Joseph Acker, the President of Retriev Technologies, a battery recycling company, “All car batteries can and should be recycled.”

The most important component of vehicle batteries is lithium. Lithium is already in high demand as it used in rechargeable batteries for laptops, mobile phones, and digital cameras. In 2015 the estimated demand for Lithium is 138,500-265,000 tons and in 2020 the demand may reach 175,000 to 500,000 tons, with most of the demand going towards batteries.

Currently the majority of the world’s supply of lithium comes from Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. While recycling batteries to extract lithium makes perfect sense, financially it is not worth it since the cost to recycle the lithium exceeds the cost of mining new lithium.

Most of the value in recycling car batteries comes from the amount of nickel, cobalt, iron and other metals for reuse. Mr. Acker explains, “the difference in battery values depends on the nickel and cobalt content. There is a trend where manufacturers are trying to reduce the amount of nickel and cobalt in batteries but this trend is reaching a lower threshold based upon performance.” The manufacturers are trying to reduce costs but if this results in inferior batteries they could be forced to change their ways.

While most of the batteries are made with Lithium, not all electric plug-in and hybrid batteries use it. Many early hybrids like the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, and Honda Civic hybrid run on a nickel-metal hydride battery. The NiMH battery is a better alternative to lead since it is lighter weight and can store more energy. That said, NiMH batteries do have their disadvantages including a high rate of self-discharge. Also the cadmium in the batteries is toxic and can’t be put in landfills so they’re seen as worse for the environment.

Most consumers that drive a hybrid or electric vehicle care greatly about the environment so it’s important to ensure that the battery is disposed of properly. For consumers that see their vehicle until the end of its life, what options are there for the battery? The battery should not be sent to a random scrapyard to be recycled, as the parts need to be processed properly. Throwing away these batteries is not an option as they can be hazardous and cause pollution. If an electric car battery is mishandled it could be a potential fire hazard or give off a shock.

In order to ensure that the battery is disposed of properly, Mr. Acker says, “ The likely place to dispose of an electric battery is the manufacturer’s dealership (if the vehicle still has life remaining) and an auto salvage yard (if the vehicle has reached end of life.  The best place to dispose of an electric battery is Retriev Technologies, the only Li Ion Battery Recycling Facility in the USA.” In Japan, Honda developed a process where customers can drop off their used batteries to dealers and rare metals are reused in new batteries.

Once they’ve been used, the batteries only retain about 70-80% of their original capacity so while this is not enough to use in a vehicle they can still find other uses. The US Department of Energy awarded $9.5 million to Toxco in order to build the first recycling facility for lithium-ion car batteries. Major electric car battery manufacturers such as Tesla have already begun to send battery packs to them.

Until proper infrastructure is in place there have been alternative ideas as to what to do with the batteries. One possibility is using electric and hybrid batteries to store electricity. A homeowner can bundle electric-car batteries to solar panels to store electricity for their house. A solar or wind farm that generates energy throughout the day can store electricity in the batteries for later consumption.

The car manufacturers are also looking into aftermarket uses of electric batteries as well. Nissan is working with Green Charge Networks to sell a mass-market energy storage system built on Nissan Leaf batteries. General Motors is also pursuing a similar plan where they will use Chevy Volt batteries to help power the General Motors Enterprise Data Center. The batteries will work in conjunction with the wind turbines and solar array while also providing a source of back-up power is need be.

As hybrid vehicles become more prevalent it’s going to become more important to find safe and environmentally friendly ways of disposing of the car batteries. Given that the average life of an electric car battery is about ten years, we’re about ten years away from needing solutions to dispose of one million car batteries with millions more to come.

Paul Nadjarian is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Mojo Motors. His extensive background in the automotive industry includes running the Parts & Accessories category at eBay Motors, the Internet lead management group at Ford Motor Co., and co-founding GreenLeaf Auto, an auto-recycling venture within Ford. Mojo Motors features vehicles for all types of buyers, whether they are looking for a Dodge Ram 1500 in New York or a Chevrolet Impala in San Francisco.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Featured Photo Credit: apiguide vis Shutterstock

 
 
Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.
 
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

New Podcast: Cruise Talks Autonomous Driving Tech, Regulations, & Auto Design

New Podcast: Battery Mineral Mining Policies & Regional Trends

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at

Comments

#1 most loved electric vehicle, solar energy, and battery news & analysis site in the world.

 

Support our work today!

Advertisement

Power CleanTechnica: $3/Month

Tesla News Solar News EV News Data Reports

Advertisement

EV Sales Charts, Graphs, & Stats

Advertisement

Our Electric Car Driver Report

30 Electric Car Benefits

Tesla Model 3 Video

Renewable Energy 101 In Depth

solar power facts

Tesla News

EV Reviews

Home Efficiency

You May Also Like

Cars

Originally published on Tesla Oracle &  EV Annex. Is it time for police cruisers to ditch the internal combustion engine? Chief Paul Nikas thinks...

Cars

The auto market is an interesting place. There is a tremendous amount of variation. There are hundreds of models, and while there are certain...

Autonomous Vehicles

Wowza — that’s a top-tier troll to start the weekend. This autonomous driving space is getting especially saucy in 2021. There have been hot...

Cars

In November of 2010, Tesla flew me out to their Silicon Valley headquarters for my first round of interviews. It was the “Roadster Days,”...

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.