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Electric Car Batteries Lasting Longer Than Predicted Delays Recycling Programs

Journalists try the Nissan Ariya in Stockholm.

Nissan/Sebastien Mauroy

The vast majority of the [electric car] batteries weve available remain in cars, said Nissan executive Nic Thomas.

And weve been selling electric cars for 12 years, he added.

The worry was once what the planet would do with an incredible number of spent electric vehicle (EV) batteries once they no more powered the cars and vans they propelled. But this glut of EV batteries have not yet materializedNissan has been making the electric Leaf since 2010and automotive industry initiatives to recycle the lithium-ion cells bundled in EV batteries are slow to go mainstream in Europe and the U.S.

Electric cars have sophisticated battery management systems that guard the long-term health of these batteries. Most manufacturers offer battery warranties of seven or eight years or about 100,000 miles of driving, but theres a business expectation that EV batteries can last longer than that; they ought to outlive the cars themselves.

EV batteries contain a lot more than 2,000 individual lithium-ion cells working together. Battery management systems, or BMS, permit the cells to be gently topped up, preserving efficiency and life; EV lithium-ion batteries live a lot longer than lithium-ion phone or laptop batteries which sport less sophisticated BMS.

We havent got an excellent big stock of batteries that people can convert into another thing, stressed Thomas, who’s the U.K. marketing director for Nissan and who recently moved back again to his home country after employed in Japan, where he led Nissans global EV business.

Nic Thomas, U.K. marketing director for Nissan, speaking at a press launch for the Ariya electric … [+] crossover in Stockholm.


Its the entire opposite of what folks feared whenever we first launched EVsthat the batteries would only last a short while, he reflected.

Its clear that a lot of EV batteries will outlast the vehicles these were installed in, and also then, they will have an advisable second life before they have to be stripped down for recycling.

By the end of the vehicles life15 or 20 years down the roadyou take the battery from the car, and its own still healthy, with perhaps 60 or 70% of usable charge, said Thomas.

Taking the battery out [of a power car] and putting a fresh battery in isn’t a viable proposition. Its more sustainable to take the battery power from the car after 20 years, recycle the automobile, and reuse the battery.

Nissan has collected just a relatively few Leaf batteriesfrom crashed vehicles or after warranty issuesand supplied some to provide backup capacity to the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam, home to Ajax SOCCER TEAM. The arenas roof has 4,200 solar power panels, with the resulting electricity stored in the same as 148 Nissan Leaf batteries.

Other Leaf batteries will undoubtedly be dismantled and reused in consumer-level portable energy storage packs when weve got some batteries to get into them, said Thomas.

But undoubtedly the easiest move to make take the entire battery out from the vehicle, put it in a shipping container in a rack and plug that right into a solar farm.

Nissan employees make final checks to cars on the production line at Nissan’s plant in Sunderland, … [+] north east England on July 1, 2021. – Japanese auto giant Nissan today announced plans to create the UK’s first car-battery “gigafactory”, where it’ll create a new electric vehicle. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Such reuse is currently commonplace in Japan, and its own ramping up in the U.K. Thomas said that Nissans new billion-dollar gigawatt factory rising from the bottom at its Sunderland plant use EV batteries to store energy from solar power panels and three wind generators.

The building use an assortment of new and used batteries, and well keep adding used batteries because they come available, he said, stressing that Nissan doesnt own the batteries in its customers cars.

[The batteries] dont participate in us; we have to support our customers choosing the best things you can do using them.

Thomas was speaking at the Stockholm launch of the Japan-built Ariya electric crossover. More premium when compared to a Leaf, the Ariya was road tested by journalists on sinuous Swedish roads.

A Volkswagen employee presents a layer after further processing the anode of battery test pouches at … [+] the pilot project for Volkswagen’s own electric car battery research and production facility on, may 18, 2022 in Salzgitter, Germany. (Photo by Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images)

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And when Leaf batteries are few in number, it’ll be a long time before semi-spent Ariya batteries are put into the companys stockpile for reuse or recycling.

Battery tech

EV batteries contain those two thousand or even more cells bundled in modules and wired into battery packs sandwiched in a protective metal casing. These electrochemical battery power can weigh one thousand pounds or even more.

Lithium-ion batteries are costly to manufacture, partly because of the high cost of cobalt, mainly mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Cobalt extraction may be the largest way to obtain DRCs export income, and the united states accounted for a lot more than two-thirds of global cobalt production in 2021.

Although some carmakers have started building cobalt-free batteriesmany Tesla batteries now rely instead on lithium phosphatethe demand for the hard, lustrous gray material is more likely to increase. Exactly the same holds true for lithium, nickel, along with other materials inside these batteries, which are mined in Russia, Indonesia, along with other places where environmental oversight is frequently poor, labor standards tend to be lax, and where mining companies have already been recognized to fuel conflicts with local communities. (Youve heard about blood diamonds? Theres also blood cobalt.)

Reclaiming cobalt and much more through recycling makes ethical and environmental sense, however the financial case is frequently poor. The retrieved raw materialreclaimed by way of a hydro-metallurgical process that produces salts or metallic hydroxides which may be used as precursorsdoesnt always even purchase the labor involved, which include collection, transport, battery chemistry sorting, shredding, separation of metallic and non-metallic materials, neutralizing hazardous substances, smelting, and purification.

Its impossible to compile accurate figures for what percentage of lithium-ion batteries are recycled, however the value usually quoted is approximately 5%.

The sector may be small, nonetheless it has vast prospect of growth.

There’s already an extremely strong recycling industry for batteries in China, said Thomas.

Ive visited plenty of plants in a few fairly far-flung elements of China where they grind the battery right down to what they call black mass, which in turn enables them to extract all the precious metals, you start with the lithium, but shifting to the nickel and the cobalt.

In Salzgitter, Germany, Volkswagen recently opened a power car battery research and production facility. This new SalzGiga facility will recycle EV batteries.

Recycling can be set to cultivate in the U.S. Redwood Materials, a battery recycler developed by Tesla cofounder and former tech chief JB Straubel, recently raised a lot more than $700 million from investors to expand its Carson City, Nevada, operations and build yet another processing facility on a 100-acre site it owns.

Redwood can already recapture usable levels of metals at a price less than conventional mining, Straubel recently told Forbes.

Policy decisions

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the planet currently has enough capacity to recycle 180,000 metric a great deal of spent EV batteries annually. That is nowhere near enough: recycling experts estimate that the EVs bought in 2019 alone will eventually generate 500,000 metric a great deal of battery waste. By 2040, there may be 1,300-gigawatt hours worth of spent batteries looking for recycling, warns the IEA.

Given the often poor economic case for recycling, its clear there have to be national and international policies to mandate EV battery recycling. Academics from the Faraday Institutions Reuse and Recycling of Lithium Ion Batteries (ReLib) project at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. will work to recognize the policies and regulations that could create the fiscal conditions necessary to optimize the reuse and recycling of EV batteries. These policies include standards around battery design that could allow recyclers to take them apart easier, battery take-back programs, and strict laws against landfilling with EV batteries.

EUROPE already regulates EV battery disposal under a protracted producer responsibility scheme and is defined to update its regulations to create specific targets for minerals recovery.

Meanwhile, automotive companies will work hard on improving battery efficiencies. Nissan is hoping to equip its cars with all-solid-state batteries (ASSB) by 2028 and may open a plant next year in Japan making the brand new technology. Solid-state batteries promise to charge faster, hold more power, and may go longer than lithium-ion batteries.

With time, however, they too should be repurposed and recycled.

Ill be early and incredibly retired by enough time we absolutely need to do many of these things, joked Thomas but, given the worldwide uptake of EVs is defined to accelerate, reuse and recycling of EV batteries will soon end up being the norm.

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