Recycling Electric Vehicle Batteries: Future Strategies
The transition to Electric Vehicles is one projected to benefit the environment, with reduced emissions and air pollution. However, Electric Vehicles (EVs) present a unique, growing challenge - how can their Lithium-ion Batteries be safely and effectively recycled when they reach their end-of-life stage?
We present a brief overview of strategies from Faraday Insights, looking at best practices.
The strategies we discuss encompass all of the Battery's life-cycle including supply, design and manufacturing, safety and storage, transporting and end-of-life.
Let's look at 3 aspects that need to be accounted for in a solid Electric Vehicle battery strategy.
① Set Preferences On How To Manage Electric Vehicle Battery Waste
Although managing EV battery waste at this moment is not a significant issue, this is forecasted to be a big challenge by 2025 when the use of Electric Vehicles increases. Hence, Faraday Insights prioritises the following 6 processes above in order from top to bottom.
Prevent: If there are any processes to extend the life-cycle of the EV battery for the same vehicle safely and effectively through design, then these should be prioritised first. This allows waste costs to be contained and can be the more affordable option in the long-run
Reuse: If the design of the lithium-ion battery is such that to extend its life-cycle safely and conveniently, it requires remanufacturing, refurbishing or repair, then this should be prioritised next.
Re-purpose: If with or without reuse, the lithium-ion battery cannot be reused for the same purpose, then the battery should be re-used in a different context. For example, to charge an appliance requiring a less demanding energy source
Recycle: If the battery cannot be used to safely and effectively charge any item requiring an electric source, only then should the battery be recycled. This is of course a costlier option, hence lower down the hierarchy, and would involve isolating important components and materials, which can be used for future production
The last two stages are what the UK government would ideally like to avoid, as they are harmful to the environment, and should be considered a last resort. Currently, both tactics below are banned in the UK.
Recover: If no components can be isolated, then the waste should be processed into fuel, provided it is legally safe to do so.
Dispose: If the battery can neither be recycled nor processed into fuel, then only should it be safely disposed of with care, ideally where the ecological impact is minimum.
② Set Policies to encourage stakeholders to focus on activities higher up the Waste Management Hierarchy (See above)
In order for there to be a greater focus higher up on the hierarchy, Faraday Insights suggests institutions use Carrot and Stick tactics, with a focus on greater product responsibility.
Such changes are necessary, given that in a traditional ownership model, vehicle manufacturers and dealerships would not be as interested in how the EV batteries are used once the vehicle is sold. This is because, beyond purchase, no additional revenue would normally be available to gain.
Hence, Faraday Insights suggest the following:
To encourage the prevention of batteries entering the waste management process in the first place, institutions can encourage companies to invest in lithium-ion battery R&D, through government grants and boosts. This is already being seen in with the European Commission approving $3.5 billion in aid for 12 European companies.
To encourage batteries to be reused, institutions can incentivise Electric Vehicle dealerships to engage in a battery leasing scheme. In this way, batteries then account for a running cost for the customer, encouraging battery maintenance, ensuring the durability of the battery lasts longer.
Faraday Insights notes that no clear strategy exists for which appliances lithium-ion batteries are legally allowed to charge once they are no longer a sufficient power source for an Electric Vehicle. Assessments would need to be made, and new legislation drawn categorising which items can and cannot be charged by these lithium-ion batteries.
No discrete strategies need to be added to encourage recycling, given that disposal of waste industrial and vehicle batteries either through landfill or incarceration are banned.
③ Incorporate the environment costs of new lithium-ion battery manufacturing into their prices
In usual market conditions, the price of a brand new EV battery would only be slightly higher than a used EV battery.
This is because, conventionally, the manufacturer would only account for factor costs when selling the new battery. This is includes a price accounting for the land, workforce and equipment costs required to build the battery. However, these are just costs beared by the manufacturer.
Faraday Insights instead suggests that the EV battery should be far higher, as costs were involved in material extraction as well, an unsustainable activity directly affecting the ecological environment. In this way, there is an even greater incentive to purchase used EV batteries over new ones, reducing the carbon footprint, and reducing EV battery waste.
To read more on what the Faraday Insights say about Electric Vehicle Battery Waste Management Strategy, scroll below
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