One of the major catalysts of introducing electric vehicles was not just to revolutionize the industry but also to go greener and take a step towards saving the planet. So the question now is, what happens when the battery on your electric vehicle dies? Will it constitute another waste in society, or can it be recycled and reused?
Electric car batteries can be recycled and reused for other purposes. This not only applies to electric cars alone; it also applies to hybrid car batteries. Initially, electric vehicle batteries contained lead-acid, which made them bulkier. The new and improved electric vehicles are now running on batteries similar to batteries used by mobile phones and laptops. These batteries contain lithium-ion. More than 90% of non-electric car batteries can be recycled or reused for something else. This makes the battery highly reusable.
Electric Vehicle Batteries
After electric vehicle batteries have been used for ten years or so, they lose about 20 to 30 percent of their potency and need replacement. But what happens to the old batteries once they are replaced? These batteries, although no longer suitable for driving, still contain about 70 percent of their potency. They can either be reused or dismantled, and the lithium-ion in them can be used for other things like solar electricity generating batteries.
With the current rise of electric vehicles, the need for recycling has begun to increase. Most of the electric cars operating today were bought within the last three years, meaning that they still have a couple of good years ahead of them before they need their car batteries replaced.
However, that does not mean that firms are not already stepping up to assume the recycling roles for electric vehicle batteries. The recycling firms won’t be booming right now, but give it ten years or so, and they will have plenty of business. Electric vehicles that have been around for a while already use these services. Examples of such firms are Toxco and Li-Cycle. Most manufactures of solar power generating devices will have use of those batteries as well.
Before recycling, the first thing to consider is reusing or repurposing. Because of the vast amount of potency worn-out EV batteries still possess, they can be used for other purposes before they are ripe for recycling. They can be used to power home appliances or street lights, and other forms of energy storage. They can even be used as solar panel backups, batteries for other electronics, and electric bikes. Many companies are taking back old batteries and using them to create extra profit. If this is well utilized, it will improve electric vehicle battery prices because they will still be valuable after being too worn out for electric cars.
Electric Vehicles Battery Recycling Processes
The main component of any recycling process is breaking the product down and salvaging the parts that can still be used. In electric vehicle batteries, this means recovering their copper and steel parts, and sometimes the lithium. Most electric vehicles batteries that are turned in for recycling still have a substantial amount of charge left in them.
The EV battery is submerged in liquid nitrogen to freeze it, and then the frozen battery is crushed into smaller pieces. This is done to prevent the lithium from reacting to the force that is applied when crushing it. Lastly, the metal components are picked and separated, and saved for use at a later time. But on occasion, when there is no charge left in the battery, the battery is torn or shredded to remove the metal parts.
How Green are Electric Vehicle Batteries?
The best way to determine how green electric vehicle batteries are is to look at three factors. These factors are:
- What natural recourses are being used to create the batteries?
- What are the batteries replacing? and
- Can they be recycled?
The natural resources used to make electric vehicle batteries are the ore spodumene or brine. These are needed in enormous quantities to be able to get one ton of lithium. But that is not all; processing lithium also consumes an insane amount of water, evaporating during the process. But as damaging as this process sounds, it is less intense than processing gasoline, which is used for internal combustion engines.
The electric vehicle’s battery is replacing the regular car battery, releasing metals in the air like lead, mercury, and cadmium, and is considered quite harmful to the soil and atmosphere.
Yes, electric vehicle batteries can be recycled. But not as cost-effective as one may expect, as the cost of recycling is more expensive than the cost of mining and creating a new battery. Extracting lithium from old electric vehicle batteries is more costly than mining and processing lithium. So the safest bet is reusing the old car batteries.