Did you know that you can recycle electric car batteries? Electric vehicle batteries are made up of all sorts of materials, from lithium ion batteries, to cobalt and nickel, which can be expensive and harmful to dispose of. Recycling electric vehicle batteries can help reduce the demand for new raw battery materials, lower the environmental impact of battery production and disposal, and create new economic opportunities for the recycling industry, so who wouldn’t want to do their it for battery recycling?
What are EV batteries made of?
EV batteries are made of various materials, depending on the type and manufacturer of the battery. However, the most common type of EV battery is the lithium-ion battery, which consists of four main components: the cathode, the anode, the separator, and the electrolyte.
The cathode is the positive electrode that stores lithium ions and releases them during discharge. The cathode is usually made of a combination of lithium and other metals, such as cobalt, nickel, manganese, or iron, according to the RAC. The choice of metals affects the performance, cost, and safety of the battery.
The anode is the negative electrode that receives lithium ions during charging and releases them during discharge. The anode is usually made of graphite, a form of carbon that has a layered structure that can accommodate lithium ions.
The separator is a thin membrane that prevents the cathode and anode from touching each other and causing a short circuit. The separator also allows lithium ions to pass through it while blocking electrons. The separator is usually made of a polymer material, such as polyethene or polypropylene, according to Axlewise.
The electrolyte is a liquid or gel that contains lithium salts and other additives that enable the movement of lithium ions between the cathode and anode. The RAC says that electrolyte also conducts electrons between the battery terminals and the external circuit. The electrolyte is usually made of a solvent, such as ethylene carbonate or dimethyl carbonate, and salt, such as lithium hexafluorophosphate or lithium perchlorate.
Can EV batteries be recycled?
Electric car battery recycling is an important topic for the sustainability of electric vehicles and the environment. The process of using battery components and recycling them is not very widespread or efficient yet. According to EDF Energy, only about 5% of lithium-ion batteries are recycled globally.
This is partly because EV batteries are complex, heavy, and contain hazardous materials that can pose safety and environmental risks, according to the BBC.
There are different methods of recycling EV batteries, such as crushing and sorting, pyrometallurgy (burning), and hydrometallurgy (leaching).
Recycling electric car batteries is great for recovering valuable metals, as well as other materials such as aluminium, copper, and graphite from the battery anodes, separators, and electrolytes.
Some car manufacturers, such as Nissan, Volkswagen, and Renault, have started to recycle their own EV batteries or reuse them for other purposes, such as recycling batteries powering factories or storing renewable energy, according to We Forum.
However, as the number of electric vehicles on the road increases, you would imagine that so will the need for more recycling facilities and regulations too. This means that electric cars and vehicle batteries will be properly collected, transported, and processed, says the BBC.
Recycling electric vehicle batteries can have many benefits says Make Use Of, such as reducing the demand for raw materials, lowering the environmental impact of mining and disposal, saving costs and energy, and creating new jobs and industries.
Is recycling EV batteries worth it?
Is EV battery recycling really worth it? Some would say yes, it is worth it to recycle batteries, when your electric vehicle battery reaches its end of life.
Some of the benefits of recycling old EV batteries are:
It keeps harmful chemicals out of the environment and reduces landfill waste. EV batteries contain metals and other materials that can leach into the soil and water if not properly disposed of, posing risks to human health and wildlife.
It recovers non-renewable materials such as metals and minerals that can be used for new batteries or other products. According to Nature, EV batteries contain valuable metals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese, which are in high demand but have limited supply and ethical issues associated with their mining. Recycling EV batteries can help conserve these resources and reduce the environmental impact of extraction.
It also reduces the cost of new batteries by making battery production more sustainable and affordable. Recycling EV batteries can lower the dependence on imported materials, save energy and emissions, and create a circular economy for battery materials. This can make new batteries cheaper and more accessible for consumers and manufacturers.
How do they recycle EV car batteries?
There are different methods of recycling EV batteries, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. There are also challenges in dismantling and reusing EV batteries, as they are large, heavy, and contain hundreds of individual cells that can explode if handled incorrectly, says RTE.
Some of the main methods for the recycling process are:
Pyrometallurgy: This method involves crushing and shredding the batteries, then burning them at high temperatures to melt the metals into alloys. This “crushing and sorting” process is the most eco-friendly way to recycle them, as it separates usable parts from hazardous materials. According to Green Orbit, this method can recover metals such as cobalt, nickel, copper, and iron, but it also consumes a lot of energy, emits greenhouse gases and toxic fumes, and destroys other materials such as lithium and graphite.
Hydrometallurgy: This method involves crushing and leaching the batteries with chemicals to dissolve the metals into solutions. Then, the metals are separated and precipitated using different techniques, such as solvent extraction, ion exchange, or electrowinning. This method can recover metals too, but it also uses a lot of water and chemicals, generates hazardous waste too.
Direct recycling: This is a relatively new method that aims to preserve the structure and composition of the battery cathodes, rather than breaking them down into individual metals. This method involves vacuuming the electrolyte, shredding the battery cells, removing the binders, and separating the cathode material from the anode and separator. Then, the cathode material can be reused in new batteries without further processing, according to the . This is great for saving energy and resources, reducing waste, and maintaining the performance of the cathode material, according to Edmunds, but it also faces challenges such as compatibility, quality control, and standardization.
Some companies are working on innovative solutions to recycle EV batteries, such as CATL, which is in talks to establish multiple battery recycling sites in Europe, and Factorial Energy, which aims to get battery manufacturers and create a circular economy for solid-state batteries by recycling lithium-metal.
What do I do with my old electric car battery?
As much as you might just want to throw your old electric car ev battery packs in the bin when it dies, they aren’t actually meant to be thrown away. The best way to dispose of them is to recycle them. To do this, you can remove the battery pack from your car, dismantle it, and sort the cells by chemical type. According to the BBC, recycling can recover up to 95% of the lead and other metals from the batteries, which can be used to make new batteries or other products.
Did you know that you can also bring your old battery to a local Halfords store, where they can dispose of and recycle it for you? They use an approved waste disposal company that recycles the batteries in the UK.
Another option is that you could also repurpose the old battery for other uses, such as storing energy from renewable sources or powering other devices. Some companies, such as Li-Cycle, Redwood Materials and Retriev Technologies, offer this service. However, this option may not be available for all types of old batteries, or locations.