Can electric car batteries be recycled?

In Buyer's Guideby evarchiveLeave a Comment

Various car manufacturers have developed recycling programs for their battery packs. The batteries are broken down into their raw materials and then the raw materials are reused. Some are recycled in a closed loop which means the batteries raw materials will be used to make more batteries. This greatly reduces the carbon footprint of the batteries.

Electric car battery lifespan

The lifetime of an electric car battery pack could be up to 20 years as motioned in a presentation by the American Chemical Society. This means an electric cars lifetime could be a lot longer than a car with an internal combustion engine (ICE) since the limiting factor is the battery pack. Typically an ICE car lasts approximately 11.5 years on average before it is scrapped. We are currently seeing that with some of the older electric cars now which have relatively small battery packs such as 24kWh that when the battery degrades a larger percentage of the battery pack is lost when compared to the larger capacity packs. This means that when there is approximately 70% to 80% of the original battery pack capacity left, these battery packs will be used in other applications by the car manufacturing companies.

Electric car battery reuse

Electric batteries can be reused if any of the following 3 situations happen, a fault with the battery pack, battery degradation or a car accident. Sometimes within a battery pack, it is possible that one of the modules could become faulty. Manufacturers will replace the faulty modules as long as you are under warranty, most manufacturers give an 8-year warranty. On some occasions, they will swap the battery pack of the car with another one. Battery degradation happens over time and someone might decide to replace there existing battery pack with a new one. In a car accident sometimes the batteries will be undamaged and the purchaser of the salvaged car can reuse the batteries. In the 3 situations described before, the battery packs can be repurposed and reused in another way than the batteries were originally intended.

Battery packs can be reused as energy storage before they are recycled down to their original raw materials. BMW has already done this by agreeing to partnerships with the recycling firm Umicore and the battery manufacturer Northvolt. Renault and Nissan also have partnerships for battery reuse. As mentioned before batteries that drop 70% to 80% below the original battery capacity are deemed unsuitable for an electric car. That’s not to say that the cars cannot be used below these battery capacities, it’s just a value which car manufacturers have come up with. Examples of these include some batteries from Nissan Leafs, which have been used as energy storage in solar panel systems. This is a smart way to do things, batteries should not be recycled straight away if there is still some use for them. As renewable energy becomes more common, battery storage will be needed more and more.

Electric car battery disposal

The batteries should not be sent to a scrap yard to be recycled and you shouldn’t just throw away the batteries as this can cause pollution and be hazardous. The disposal of electric car batteries should be arranged by the manufacturer of your car, where normally you can give the batteries to the dealership. Normally they have a deal in place with a specialist battery recycling firm. As there are several types of batteries used in cars, such as nickel metal hydride batteries in the Nissan Leaf or the more common Lithium-Ion batteries used in Teslas. There will be slightly different recycling processes to extract the raw material.

Electric car battery raw materials

In lithium Ion batteries the main components include lithium, nickel & cobalt. At the moment it does not make sense to recycle lithium as the cost of mining new lithium is cheaper than recycling it. However, it is cost effective to recycle nickel, iron, and cobalt found in car batteries. If you are interested in finding the specifics of how various battery types can be recycled down to their raw materials I found this article from battery solutions very useful.

Electric car battery replacement cost

Electric cars require less maintenance than their ICE counterparts. There are lot less moving parts in an electric car and this means you save money on servicing etc. Since many electric cars have not been around for long in the grand scheme of things, finding replacement battery costs for some vehicles will be difficult, as not many people have had to buy a replacement battery pack yet. However, after searching I found that the 24kWh “2015 specification” battery pack from a Nissan Leaf will set you back $6,499 in the USA. The reality of things is that they will give you $1000 for your old battery pack, so it works out that your $5,499 out of pocket before taxes and installation fees. The interesting thing for me is that in the future you might be able to upgrade to a higher capacity battery pack. With the price of batteries getting cheaper every year, this could be a real possibility and an exciting option for anyone who currently has range anxiety.

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