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No concern about EV battery recycling

Published: 6 December 2019 - Sarah Mead

The pace of technology these days is so fast that sometimes it is hard to take it all in. For example, the recent announcement from Bosch that the company is developing new cloud services that help electric vehicle batteries maintain performance for longer periods. The company’s new service, unsurprisingly called 'Battery in the Cloud', apparently uses algorithms to understand battery stress factors and thus optimise the recharging process. Even if the science is complex, it is clear that there's a need to maximise usage from batteries because, like any automotive part, at some point in the future they will need to be recycled.

EV surge

As the increasing demand for electric cars continues to help reduce carbon emissions, it gives rise to another environmental issue: What do we do with large lithium-ion batteries once they run out of useful life? Clearly, as has been learned from the past with other damaging products and chemicals, dumping them in landfills would be environmentally disastrous, not to mention completely illegal.

Fortunately the fallout from this problem is a very long way off but it is still clear that recycling isn’t economical just yet. Repurposing will help but there's a way to go. Not to worry though because but many innovators are working to bring a viable system to a market that is almost certainly guaranteed to boom.

Experts predict around 140 million electric vehicles with charging cables will be sold by 2030. It is estimated that the batteries within will only last about 10 years before they’re no longer suitable. At some point then it is estimated that there will be tonnes of used lithium-ion batteries to be dealt with but motorists shouldn't be concerned because, at the end of the day, recycling remains a priority that a price cannot be put upon.

It's all In hand

One global materials technology and recycling group is already on it. Lithium in particular is difficult to recover because it ends up in a mixed by-product and the company confirm it is not yet economical. Current methods can cost more to extract the metals than what they are worth.

Recycling though is not the only option. Part of the solution may be, as mentioned, to repurpose. When car batteries can no longer meet the energy demands of powering EV's, they can still be useful because they retain up to seventy percent capacity. This means the used batteries could be put to use in less demanding environments, like home energy storage.

Nissan, for one, is trying to do this on several fronts. It’s deploying used batteries to power a sports stadium in Amsterdam, it seems. 148 ex Nissan Leaf batteries are being used to create a 3 megawatt storage system at the Ajax Amsterdam arena to guarantee the stadium’s energy supply, even during a power outage. This also helps to keep peak time power demands stable locally. The Japanese company is also planning to repurpose used Nissan Leaf batteries to power street lamps, recharging using solar panels. It is one solution for now.

An American brand that recycles lead acid batteries is soon to open a facility in the USA that will do the job, they say, and this is supported by Tesla who have plans to use it. Although by creating electric cars industry made another problem for themselves, we are well on the way to a solution that works for everyone. So plug in your electric car charging cables in to the garage mounted wall charger and drive electric with confidence.

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