Electric cars are taking over the road. Gasoline and diesel vehicles will soon become a thing of the past. The European Union has banned the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles to accelerate the transition to cleaner transportation and mitigate climate change. In fact, electric vehicles do not emit any carbon dioxide when driving, but their rechargeable batteries are causing environmental and social concern. They contain scarce and expensive metals. Moreover, once batteries expire, they are difficult to recycle.
An ordinary lithium-ion battery consists of many individual batteries and weighs hundreds of kilograms. The battery pack used by Nissan Leaf contains 192 small-pocket batteries. The battery pack of Tesla Model S contains 7,104 cylindrical batteries. All of these batteries are bundled into modules and glued together with screws, welding and glue as a unit. Take control. As batteries begin to accumulate, automakers, battery companies, and researchers are trying to save them so that they don’t end up in landfills.
Recyclers are mainly interested in extracting precious metals and minerals from batteries. Obtaining these materials is complicated and dangerous. After removing the steel shell, the battery pack needs to be carefully disassembled into units to avoid piercing any hazardous materials. Electrolyte is a liquid whose function is to move lithium ions between the cathode and anode. If heated, it may catch fire or even explode. Only when the battery pack is disassembled, the recyclers can safely extract the conductive lithium, nickel, copper and cobalt.
Cobalt is used in the cathode and is the most sought-after material in batteries. This rare blue-gray metal comes mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where miners work in dangerous conditions. The world’s major electric car manufacturers have begun to stay away from cobalt because human rights violations, supply chain shortages and price fluctuations have discouraged them. This raises the question of whether recyclers still think it is worth dismantling newer batteries that lack the most valuable ingredients. When you switch to more sustainable materials and lower cost materials, the power to recycle and recycle them will be Reduction, such as buying a new mobile phone is often cheaper than repairing or recycling.
As the sales of electric vehicles continue to surge, the number of used batteries will also increase. Based on 1 million cars sold in 2017, researchers from the Faraday Institute in the United Kingdom estimate that approximately 250,000 tons of unprocessed battery packs will reach the end of their lives within 15 to 20 years. This is equivalent to 500,000 cubic meters of used batteries, enough to fill 200 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Some of these batteries will be decommissioned early in a car accident or will be reused in other industries and be recycled later.
According to the London-based Recycling Energy Storage Consulting Company, the global capacity to recover raw materials from used batteries is estimated to be 830,000 tons per year, many of which are in China and cannot be used in other markets because China prohibits the import of used batteries. Chinese companies occupy more than two-thirds of the lithium-ion battery supply chain. But this ban can be resolved through recyclers in Southeast Asia. Europe is slowly catching up in battery production and recycling, with automakers taking the lead in recycling valuable materials. IEA predicts that by 2040, recycling can meet 12% of the electric vehicle industry's demand for lithium, nickel, copper and cobalt. The Volkswagen Group, including Audi, Porsche and other automakers, has begun recycling electric car batteries