As the demand for electric vehicles is increasing, questions regarding the lifecycle of these vehicles and how their batteries work have been top of mind for current owners, future buyers, policy companies, and other experts in the automotive industry.
EVs are the latest technologies, and unlike gasoline vehicles, their batteries require different end-of-life processing. These vehicles are running on Lithium-ion batteries because these batteries have the potential to store energy for an extended period. Lithium-ion batteries are manufactured using rare-earth materials such as Lithium, Cobalt, Nickel, etc., which are present in the core of the Earth. Mining is the only process to extract these materials from the Earth that negatively impacts the environment. Luckily, lithium battery recycling research and development have been conducted for years, and as a result, there is an existing and growing repurposing and recycling system for these components.
First Reused and Repurposed, then Recycled
The new battery (first-life) can be reused, refurbished, and repurposed before recycling.
Batteries have an additional helpful capacity of approximately 80% of their original capacity, as long as the battery is not destroyed during use in an EV, such as in an accident. The battery can now store up to 80 kWh even though it was designed to store 100 kWh. The batteries can be disassembled to recover smaller components for reuse and refurbishment or recycled and used in a less demanding application, like stationary storage, to make use of the remaining capacity.
Battery recycling companies are reusing batteries for stationary storage to promote renewable energy production. To produce a larger battery, roughly the size of a shipping container, they connect many EV batteries with battery monitoring and cooling technology. These old batteries are an excellent way to help the shift to renewable energy sources while extending the useful life of a product that has already been produced. The batteries are then ready to be recycled after the second use.
What Are the Valuable Components in a Vehicle Battery?
Lithium-ion batteries contain valuable materials that can be recycled and used in manufacturing batteries.
Before li-ion battery recycling, batteries are disabled and shredded by using large machinery to break the batteries into smaller pieces. The materials are sorted and divided based on size after shredding is finished. Plastics, ferrous, and non-ferrous materials (also called black mass) are divided into three groups. The key components that make up the black mass are cobalt, lithium, nickel, and manganese, which can be extracted via a hydrometallurgical procedure.
Leaching is the first step in hydrometallurgical recycling to produce a solvent containing the essential components. Then, employing solvent extraction, precipitation, and purification, the individual components are recovered. In the metals sector, hydrometallurgy is well-known since a similar procedure is also used to extract the components from ore after it has been mined. Many lithium-ion recycling companies in India employ a variation of this procedure and report a material recovery rate between 95% and 98.5%.
Can Recycled Materials Be Used to Manufacture New Batteries?
Yes! The materials can then be processed and utilized to make new lithium-ion batteries after being recovered. This source is superior to using virgin ore because it lowers the quantity of mining required to make EVs.
According to recent studies, recycled materials could produce cobalt, lithium, and nickel from used light- and heavy-duty cars by the year 2050. Being able to recycle batteries and reuse the metal inside them is a crucial step in the transition to a cleaner transportation system as efforts are being made worldwide to expand EV sales.
Recycling is Key to Making EVs Greener
EV batteries presently make up nearly half the mass of recycled lithium-ion batteries, including trash from the production of batteries and consumer devices. Given the growing number of EVs now on the road, more EVs will be retiring in the upcoming years as they eventually age out of the fleet or are totaled.
Electric vehicle retirement is predicted to increase by 6–7 times in 2025 compared to 2020 and by 20–40 times in 2030. As a result of this growth, vehicle batteries now make up a substantially more significant portion of the recycling stream. Companies that recycle these batteries are preparing themselves by increasing their capacity to handle this incoming surge.
By forming alliances with automakers, battery recycling companies are securing a supply of batteries. These company’s researchers have been simulating possible reverse logistics networks and a learning-by-doing strategy. Their recycling initiatives involve collecting and recycling any used lithium-ion batteries.
Li-ion battery recycling is a sustainable way to store and reuse energy without harming the environment. BatX Energies is a battery recycling company in India that recycles end-of-life Lithium-ion batteries. The company has developed its own proprietary Net Zero Waste, Zero Emissions process for recycling end-of-life Lithium-ion batteries to extract black mass, rare-earth materials, and other secondary products that can be used to manufacture new batteries. The company believes in circularity movement, meaning the product is created with its own end-of-life taken into account. In a Circular Economy, once the product is used, it goes back into the supply chain instead of the landfill.