Sushobhan Mahanty – For the past century, civilization has heavily relied upon fossil fuels to literally power their lives. The urgent need to cut carbon emissions is prompting a rapid move toward electrified mobility and expanded deployment of solar and wind on the electrical grid.
With the complete world shifting its focus towards electric vehicles and other Li-ion battery products, the production size of those batteries is anticipated to be very high. The increasing volume of Li-ion batteries would successively cause a growing capacity of ‘spent’ batteries within the ecosystem.
Like many other batteries, the Li-ion cells that power most EVs rely on raw materials, like cobalt (Co), Li, and rare earth elements, that have been linked to grave environmental and human rights concerns. Extracting the metals from their ores is an “emission rich” process… emits SOx, CO2, etc. A study conducted by the IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute states that manufacturing an electric car battery requires around 350 to 650 MJ of energy per kWh and a regular battery pack of an EV can generate 80g to 90g of CO2. In Chile’s Salar de Atacama, a significant center of Li production, 65% of the region’s water is consumed by mining activities. This affects farmers within the region who must then import water from other regions.
So, here we are able to understand the importance of recycling batteries. The limited lifetime of these batteries would eventually produce dead batteries which might require a good process to recycle them.
EV batteries aren’t yet recycled at scale. The market continues to be in its infancy. To bring down the imports and make battery manufacturing sustainable it’s necessary to speculate early in large-scale recycling infrastructure. Further, the changing international and political relations with countries owning natural reserves of those key metals and staples and fluctuating prices of raw materials in global markets could also impact the battery prices. A rise in the price of batteries could increase the cost of EVs and be a hindrance to the sale of EVs. Many companies in India have already started viewing this chance and have either already established or announced plans to line up recycling operations.
While recycling, the goal is to recover the utmost number of reusable resources while consuming the minimum amount of energy. The recycling of an EV’s battery faces a double challenge: reduce the number of waste generated by an electric battery at the tip of its life and encourage the reuse of as many components and resources involved in its manufacture as possible.
Recycling EV batteries at end-of-life are essential as it may prove to be a valuable secondary resource for critical materials. Careful management of the resources consumed by EV battery manufacturing, and recycling, surely holds the key to the sustainability of the future automotive industry.
About the author: Sushobhan Mahanty, pursuing electrical engineering, is a contributor at Conscious Carma. Having a keen interest in sustainability, he is currently exploring various sustainable fields like renewables and electric vehickes, etc and is running a newsletter on LInkedin, “Sustainability Vibes”.