With the rise of electric vehicles (EVs), learning how to prepare for battery recycling is a must. Batteries that EVs use contain harmful chemicals that must be disposed of properly.
Recycling batteries typically come with a fee, so finding a way to recycle electric car batteries could pose a challenge. Studies are emerging that offer insight into ways we can safely recycle these batteries.
EVs run on lithium-ion batteries containing toxic chemicals that can catch fire and spread quickly, posing many risks. So, not only are EV batteries expensive, but they can also be dangerous.
Breaking down batteries to get materials that can be put back into other batteries is expensive. The primary challenge is transporting the batteries to facilities that can recycle them.
Due to the dangers of lithium-ion battery components and their size, they cannot be flown in an airplane – they must travel by ground vehicle to facilities for recycling. About 40% of the cost of recycling batteries comes from transporting them to recycling facilities.
Although EV batteries contain other valuable materials such as nickel and lithium, cobalt is the only material that turns a profit from recycling these batteries since it is such a rare component. Cobalt poses health risks independently, as it can cause harm to the human body with prolonged exposure.
Since these battery packs are so dangerous, they shouldn’t go to landfills, but recycling them is expensive. So, what do we do to remedy this situation with the rise in EV production that poses more risks, yet has the potential to save the environment? We revise and amend the recycling process.
Recycling and recovering processes for EV batteries are becoming an area of concern due to the expansion of EV production. A traditional method uses chemistry to recover metals that EV batteries consist of. This method combines hydrometallurgy and thermal pretreatment based on time and temperature.
Multiple companies are applying this combination for recovering metals from EV batteries, but their times and temperatures differ. Research has shown that room temperature and 30 minutes is the optimal combination to achieve the most eco-friendly results and reduced costs from the recycling process.
This revelation is essential as the progression of electric vehicles increases and more batteries emerge that will need to be recovered and recycled.
While methods like these have worked in recycling batteries prior to the emergence of EVs on a larger scale, they do not extract all of the valuable materials that lithium-ion batteries contain.
The traditional methods of hydrometallurgy and thermal pretreatment recover some materials from batteries but can’t recover all of them, although they are up for grabs.
Recycling startups are emerging that can be game-changers for battery recycling. These startups apply techniques gained from experience with battery production. Investors support these startups by recognizing the growing need for more efficient recycling opportunities for sustainability.
ABTC uses a process that presents the idea of separating batteries the same way they were put together. Li-cycle offers a technique that breaks down the battery packs and saves the metal components they contain for recycling purposes. Ascend Elements turns old cathodes into new cathodes, which is the most expensive part of a new battery.
Redwood Materials uses stored energy to power battery recycling. Residual energy found in old batteries is often emptied of its charge by recyclers for safe material extraction. Redwood Materials differs from this with their own technique of converting the stored energy into heat for a calcination process in low temperatures that takes electrolytes from the old battery cells.
Another player in battery recycling, KULR Technology Group, is making it cost-efficient and safe to transport old batteries. KULR provides a safe environment for old batteries with the low temperatures required.
Desposing of batteries responsibly
One of the barriers to recycling EV batteries is that people are unsure how to dispose of them, so they just hang on to them. Many batteries are going to waste in junk drawers across the world in the form of old cell phones or other digital devices.
It is crucial to know where to take these old batteries so they can be recycled and reused. Staples and Best Buy are stores that will take your old batteries, wipe the data off the devices (if applicable) and then send them to facilities where they can be recycled.
Building better habits concerning battery handling and recycling on a smaller scale – with personal electronics – will help acclimate people to the idea of recycling other kinds of batteries. It will hopefully encourage the development of the relevant infrastructure, too.
EVs are more sustainable than vehicles that guzzle gas for transportation, so converting to them is still a step in the right direction. EV batteries may be challenging to recycle efficiently, but with the emergence of startups the threats they pose to the environment can be tackled.
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