One big misconception out there is that once an EV battery has outlived its usefulness, it’s dumped into the ground like garbage, and disposing of those batteries creates an environmental hazard. If that were the case, EV’s are actually bad for the environment, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Are They Recycled?
Yes. ALL batteries, unless they’ve been thrown in the garbage (you know you shouldn’t) are recycled.
Early EV’s were powered by numerous lead-acid batteries – just like the one under the hood of a regular car. In the case of the lead-acid batteries, 96 percent of the materials in the battery – including the lead, is recovered and re-used. They can also be recharged and reused a number of ways before being recycled – more below.
Newer vehicles use lithium-ion (Li-On) batteries, just like laptops, cell phones and power tools. The beauty of Li-On is they can be charged and stay fully charged without draining, unlike the batteries of old. Also, they use their full power and then die, unlike the old Ni-cad batteries that would get weaker and weaker until they just stopped (Toyota and Lexus vehicles use Nickel-metal hydride batteries).
Think of EV batteries being like bunches or sections/cells, connected to more sections/cells, so although one section may die, the rest of the sections/cells keep re-charging and running the vehicle. Eventually, when the EV batteries get to about a 50-80% recharge rate (it’s lost 20-50% of total power from new) – it’s considered used up and the EV then has to have its entire battery pack replaced.
Before these battery packs from EVs ever get to a recycling centre, they are used to prop up the grid alongside energy sources such as wind and/or solar power. The batteries are used to store power to help the flow of electricity stay continuous in concert with solar and wind – they charge the batteries during the day, and the batteries provide electric power at night (or when it isn’t sunny or windy).
The batteries from electric and hybrid vehicles are already being repurposed around the world. Li-On car and bus batteries can collect and discharge electricity for another 7 to 10 years after being removed from vehicles.
Nissan claim there’s about 10-11 years of battery life while in a car before it gets another 10-12 years of repurposed use, and then it’s finally sent for recycling. Nissan already has a system in place that takes care of used up Leaf batteries and gives them new life in other applications. Batteries from Nissan’s Leaf will soon help illuminate streets in the Japanese town of Namie. Toyota will install retired batteries outside 7-Eleven stores in Japan next year. The ex-hybrid batteries will store power from solar panels, and then help run the coolers inside the stores.
Battery End Life
When lithium-ion batteries reach a recycling plant, there are shredded so that the metal components like copper and steel can be easily sorted and they are then re-used…again.
Copyright © 2019 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland