Electric cars can cause a polluting CRISIS – with thousands of tons of unprocessed battery waste dumped by UK drivers, the study warns
- Half a million cubic meters of unprocessed battery waste can be produced during the life of the electric cars sold in 2017
- To efficiently recycle the batteries, they must be dismantled and the waste streams separated
- By 2040 there could be eight giga factories in the UK that produce and dispose of batteries after use
- Batteries for electric vehicles contain materials such as cobalt, nickel and manganese that can be reused in future batteries
Waste batteries for electric cars create a huge pile of waste that can cause a pollution crisis, scientists have warned.
Electric cars are praised as one of the most important technologies in the fight against climate change, but a new study claims that recycling technology is struggling to keep pace.
This leads to thousands of tons of unprocessed battery waste accumulating – and potentially leaching dangerous chemicals into the environment.
In the report, scientists from the University of Birmingham urge governments and industry to act & # 39; now to develop a robust recycling plan that can meet future needs & # 39 ;.
If only two percent of the global healthcare fleet were electrified, the number of vehicles could cover the entire circumference of the earth – around 140 million vehicles. Researchers say that there is currently no solution to properly recycle those batteries
Dr. Gavin Harper, study author, said that without a significant development of recycling technology, the million electric cars sold in 2017 will produce 250,000 tons of unprocessed battery waste during their lifetime.
He added that the recycling challenge is not easy, because there is a huge variety in the chemistry, form and design of lithium-ion batteries used by electric vehicles.
To efficiently recycle these batteries, they must be dismantled and the resulting waste streams separated into their component parts.
In addition to lithium, the batteries also contain a number of other valuable metals such as cobalt, nickel and manganese which, according to Dr. Harper can be reused.
Analysis by the Faraday Institution – the British independent institute for research into electrochemical energy storage – says that the demand for batteries for electric vehicles can be an opportunity for the UK.
It concluded that in 2040 the UK may have to build eight giga plants to meet the demand for batteries for electric vehicles.
Gigafactory is a word first used by Tesla owner Elon Musk to describe a huge factory that has a & # 39; substantial amount of & # 39; produces battery power, measured in giga watt hours.
Dr. Harper says the UK must develop sources of supply for the critical materials needed for these batteries and that recycled material can play an important role.
Professor Andrew Abbott of the University of Leicester said: & # 39; Electrification of just two percent of today's global fleet would represent a row of cars that could extend around the Earth's circumference – so & # 39; n 140 million vehicles. & # 39;
By 2040, researchers say the UK could have eight giga factories, similar to the Tesla plant seen here, for making and recycling batteries for electric vehicles
Professor Abbott said that recycling the batteries is a & # 39; huge burden & # 39; waste disposal and help ensure the delivery of critical materials needed for future battery production.
The researchers propose the development of rapid repair and recycling methods, especially in view of the fact that large-scale storage of electric batteries may be unsafe.
Professor Paul Christensen, of the University of Newcastle, is working with the UK Fire and Rescue service to develop ways to tackle lithium-ion fire.
Challenges for electric vehicle waste
The study has identified a number of key challenges that engineers and policymakers must tackle when dealing with the problem of wasting the battery of electric vehicles. Including:
Batteries for electric vehicles such as those placed in a Porsche body contain a number of valuable materials, including cobalt, nickel and manganese, that can be reused in future batteries.
- Identify second-use applications for end-of-life batteries
- Development of rapid repair and recycling methods, particularly in view of the fact that large-scale storage of electric batteries is potentially unsafe
- Improve the diagnosis of batteries, battery packs and battery cells, so that the health status of batteries can be accurately assessed before they are reused
- Optimization of battery designs for recycling to enable automated battery disassembly, safer than current manual handling techniques
- The design of new stabilization processes that make it possible to open and separate discarded batteries, and the development of techniques or processes to ensure that components are not contaminated during recycling
Professor Christensen said: & # 39; These batteries contain huge amounts of power and we are still relatively unprepared for how we handle them when they reach the end of their lives.
& # 39; One of the research areas for this project is to look at automation and how we can safely and efficiently dismantle used batteries and recover valuable materials such as lithium and cobalt.
& # 39; But there is also a public safety issue that needs to be addressed as second-life EV batteries become more widely available.
& # 39; What we need is an urgent look at the entire life cycle of the battery – from digging the materials out to the ground and throwing them away again. & # 39;