Countries all around the world have set ambitious targets for the manufacture of components for electric vehicles (EVs), including lithium-ion batteries, to help meet the predicted demand for clean transportation options, but industry collaboration is needed to help ensure lithium-ion battery recycling is safer, efficient, and more sustainable.
According to magazine, a report from UK electric vehicle charging consultancy Versinetic, titled ‘Key Barriers to EV Charging Infrastructure Rollout’, highlights many of the issues facing the EV industry, not only the long-term issues of battery recycling.
However, there are many major opportunities for organisations to demonstrate their expertise and their resources in innovative solutions to solve the issue of what to do with the thousands of lithium-ion batteries that have reached their end of useful life.
According to the University of Warwick’s, Automotive Lithium-ion Battery Recycling in the UK report, it is predicted that by 2040, 339,000 metric tons of EV batteries will have reached the end of their average 11-year lifespan.
Adopted by the UK, the EU Battery Directive has the primary objective of minimising the impact of batteries and accumulators and waste batteries on the environment.
The directive states that for all lithium-ion batteries, a minimum of 50 per cent of their weight must be recycled at the end of life. This provides an opportunity for manufacturers, recycling organisations, and specialist battery processing companies to collaborate to ensure EV batteries can be easily, safely, and efficiently recycled for benefits to all.
However, there are greater risks and hazards when dismantling EVs, compared to traditional petrol or diesel vehicles. EV batteries have a high voltage, and can also easily ignite during dismantling, leading to the release of highly toxic chemicals.
This means there needs to be an industry-wide commitment to the use of safer materials and standardisation into the way that batteries are produced and controlled, to make a significant difference to the safety and efficiency of the battery recycling process.
This calls for battery pack design to be prioritised to ensure that they can be easily dismantled at their end of their life, as well as an extension to the International Dismantling Information System (IDIS) to cover EV battery packs, providing full transparency as to the materials and component construction of EV batteries, ensuring that recycling is standardised.
Currently, many recyclers are sending EV batteries to Europe for end-of-life processing, but this is expensive and unsustainable. As the number of EV batteries increases, there needs to be a network of specialist companies able to undertake safe and effective lithium-ion recycling in the UK.
Without a doubt, within the next two decades, there will be many more EV batteries making their way to recycling, and they need to be handled safely and sustainably.
Going forward, governments need to develop new regulations that ensure a larger proportion of EV batteries are recycled. With the right investment, backed by legislation and a commitment from the entire industry, EV batteries in the UK can be recycled sustainably.
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