As reported by Canary Media it is time. The public is finally buying electric vehicles in substantial numbers. So we are a pivotal step toward decarbonizing transportation. But without changes to how the industry does business isn’t good. Because the surge in EVs could eventually leave the planet awash. All in the batteries that make them run.

As CNET reports:

Scale is good, and a problem

EVs are heading toward major adoption. For that’s thanks to improving technology and prices. In addition, government mandates, carmaker pledges. Also climate doom-scrolling and soaring gas prices.

Paul Anderson, professor of strategic elements and materials sustainability at the University of Birmingham had something to say. For he told the BBC that “the rate at which we’re growing the [EV] industry is absolutely scary“. That’s in terms of a “battery bomb” in 10 to 15 years. One that will present a lot of tired EV batteries that need a responsible place to go. Yes, combustion cars will dominate the roads for decades to come. However, EVs will achieve critical mass at the same time.

Lithium-ion batteries already power phones. In addition to laptops. Then let’s talk scooters. In addition to e-bikes. Finally and toothbrushes. But global battery manufacturing is growing rapidly. Especially to serve the newly voracious demand. All for electric cars. That which hit a record 8.6 percent of global new car sales in 2021.

Now that the growth trajectory is clear. Especially for battery-powered cars.

So the clean energy industry needs to figure out how to deal. Most importantly with the ensuing waste. In addition, lithium-ion batteries contain materials. Those that shouldn’t be dumped in a landfill.

Moreover and old batteries can catch fire it’s bad. For if they aren’t cared for properly not good. But so far, battery recycling technology and processing capacity have lagged. That’s way far behind manufacturing.

Recycling EV Car Batteries

Recycling of electric car batteries can be easier. Also cheaper and more environmentally friendly. That’s according to a new scientific article. It’s from from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden. One which outlines an optimized recycling process.

The research, published in the journal Waste Management, has been carried out. That’s by some of the world’s foremost experts. All in the field. It also represents a vital step. Especially towards the electro mobility society. One that’s inevitable for the future.

Using electric vehicles (EVs) needs more. So as it increases work needs to be done. That’s why recycling for batteries is essential.

For it is becoming an important area of research.

As Tesla reports:

Unlike fossil fuels, which release harmful emissions into the atmosphere that are not recovered for reuse. So materials in a Tesla lithium-ion battery are recoverable and recyclable. Battery materials are refined and put into a cell. Those will still remain in the cell at the end of their life. Especially when they can be recycled. That’s to recover its valuable materials for reuse over and over again.

Extending the life of a battery pack is a superior option. Especially to recycling. That’s for environmental reasons. Also and more importantly business reasons. For those reasons it’s done before decommissioning. I mean a consumer battery pack and sending it for recycling. Tesla does everything it can to extend the useful life of each battery pack. Any battery that is no longer meeting a customer’s needs can be serviced by Tesla. That’s at one of our service centers around the world. None of their scrapped lithium-ion batteries go to landfilling. Then they are 100% are recycled.

I mean one method that currently attracts a lot of interest.

Especially is a combination of thermal pretreatment and hydrometallurgy.

It involves aqueous chemistry. That’s to recover the metals. Several companies are developing systems I heard to help. Those that will be used during this combination. However, the researchers at Chalmers University of Technology say there’s work. For these companies use widely differing temperatures. In addition, they have different times in their processes.

Also and according to WBUR:

Now, a Massachusetts startup has a unique solution. One that gives the worn-out energy cells new life, making EVs more sustainable. Also and cheaper, too.

Ascend Elements claims it can turn spent lithium-ion batteries into ones. Ones that are better than new. Also longer-lasting, faster-charging and less-polluting. The recycled energy cells could also provide the U.S. with an added measure of energy independence.

Driving Change

Lithium-ion batteries are in the vast majority of electric cars and trucks. Lithium is what scientists call “energy dense”.  For that’s packing a powerful punch. Especially relative to its size and weight. But the battery name is misleading.

“Ironically, lithium is not the most important material in a lithium-ion battery,” says Jeffrey Spangenberger, director of Argonne National Laboratory’s ReCell Center.  One which works to advance battery-recycling technologies.

Nickel, graphite, manganese and cobalt. For these are also important. That’s Spangenberger says. He means especially cobalt. For that’s the most expensive material in EV batteries. It’s one reason the batteries are the costliest part of an electric vehicle.

30 minutes and room temperature can suffice for recycling

A key finding of the new study was that the hydrometallurgical process. For if it can be carried out at room temperature. This is something that has not been previously tested before. It can yield major benefits. Especially in the form of reducing environmental impacts. In addition, lower costs for recycling the batteries. The process can also be carried out significantly quicker. I mean than previously thought.

Temperatures are Essential

The researchers investigated how the different steps. All on thermal pretreatment and hydrometallurgy. They are affected by each other. An important comparison was made. For that’s between two different approaches.

That’s for thermal pre-treatment. For that’s incineration or pyrolysis. The latter is without oxygen. Yet is is more environmentally friendly.

Continued optimization crucial for the field

If the recycling of electric car batteries is to reach the volumes it needs help. Especially required for the future. For the costs must be radically reduced. Improving the processes is, therefore, a crucial challenge.

An example of this is visible in connection to a new trend. One that has spread among the producers. I mean of EV batteries. For that’s solid-state batteries. These batteries contain significantly more different metals. Those which makes recycling much harder.

As Treehugger reports:

Reuse Before Recycle

Batteries lose roughly 2.3% of their energy capacity annually. So a 12-year-old battery might have 76% of its original storage capacity.

Energy storage, itself a booming industry. For it can repurpose these batteries after the EV itself. Especially has reached the end of its life. They can be used as energy storage devices in residences as utility-scale storage to provide resilience to the electricity grid, or even to power robots. Reuse can double the useful lifetime of the batteries, at which point, they can be recycled.

To reduce the need for new mining, experts say we’re going to have to get a lot better. Especially at recycling EV batteries when they die. While only a small number of EV batteries have aged off the streets already.
Yet millions of tons of batteries are expected to come offline. Then to be decommissioned. That’s over the coming decades.
Those batteries could supply a significant fraction of the EV industry’s future. I mean their mineral demand. However, better recycling methods and government policies are needed. Especially to support them. For they are needed to ensure that batteries don’t wind up in landfills instead.

Biden Administration

As Energy Monitor reports:

That is why the Biden administration also announced a separate $60m program. All for battery recycling in early May 2022. By reusing materials from end-of-life batteries. It’s a secondary domestic supply chain. One independent of the mining supply chain could be created.

According to US-based analysts, Allied Market Research, the global EV battery recycling market was valued at around $139m in 2017.  Now it is expected to grow to $2.27bn by 2025.

The need for independence and security of supply has become more urgent. Especially since Russia invaded Ukraine.  So the first halts to gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria. Then most recently, Finland. For they have had countries scrambling for alternatives. A month before announcing the $3bn EV battery boost. That’s because Biden already invoked the Defense Production Act. That’s to increase the mining of EV battery minerals. This gives the government more access to funding. Especially to support mining. Also processing and recycling of critical minerals.

According to the US Geological Survey, the country had a net import reliance of 100% for graphite. Also and manganese in 2021. That’s followed by 75% for cobalt. Also almost 50% for nickel and more than 25% for lithium.

EV battery recycling for security of supply

Security of supply for critical minerals is not just a concern for the US. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), “clean energy technologies are becoming the fastest-growing segment of demand” for critical minerals. In a world on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement! So the IEA estimates that the sector’s demand for copper and rare earth elements will rise. That’s by more than 40% in the next two decades. Also more than 60% for nickel and cobalt. Finally and almost 90% for lithium. Without a steady supply, the energy transition is at risk of slowing down.

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