Back in 2016, it was your cool neighbor who pulled into their garage with a shiny new Tesla. Then it was your car aficionado friend who said they’d never go electric pulling up in his hybrid. The final straw was your grandmother, who decided it’s never too late to go green. Finally, it was you pulling up to the mall parking lot EV charging station.
The US hit a million stone, selling over one million EVs a single calendar year in 2023 — and their batteries came with them. This continuing surge underscores the urgency for developing solid recycling frameworks and infrastructure to effectively manage the forthcoming influx of spent EV batteries.
Let’s dive into why we need to keep EV batteries in circularity and how to recycle them properly.
For Every Solution, A New Problem?
As electric vehicles (EVs) surge in popularity, so too does the need to address the end-of-life management of their batteries. While a massive part of the world’s carbon footprint is minimized by getting more EVs on the road, there is still work to be done in informing consumers about the right way to recycle the batteries that accompany them.
The average EV lithium-ion battery lasts at least ten years before performance declines to a point where it might need replacement. With millions of EVs hitting the roads, we’re looking at a potential boon of used batteries. By 2027, it is estimated that 200,000 metric tons domestically and 800,000 metric tons globally of EV batteries will reach their end of life and will need to be disposed of properly.
What happens if they aren’t properly disposed of? For one, a tremendous amount of lost resources and materials – the latter of which can be put to work again instead of doing a whole lot of nothing in a landfill.
The hazardous substances contained in batteries have the potential to escape into the natural surroundings, posing significant risks to both human well-being and ecological integrity. When disposed of in landfills, these substances are liable to permeate the soil, creating a pathway to contaminate the waterways.
The good news is the US government has pledged over $10 billion in supporting EV battery processing as part of a larger package to make it easier to reclaim the valuable materials involved.
What Parts of an EV Battery Can Be Recycled and Upcycled
While your EV battery may decline in performance towards its expected end of life, it still holds valuable materials that can be put back into circularity. Recycling of EV batteries focuses primarily on reclaiming valuable metals and materials found within these power sources.
Key recyclable components include the cathode and anode, which contain metals like lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese—critical to battery production.
The battery management system (BMS), often consisting of recyclable electronic elements and the copper used in battery connectors and current collectors, is also an important target for material recovery.
How to Properly Recycle an EV Battery
To give your EV battery the best send-off to its next life, use gloved hands to remove the battery and secure it in a container. You should then transport the battery to a certified recycling center or facility that handles EV batteries. There, it will undergo professional “disassembly” to break down the battery into its core components – such as the plastic casing, metal casings, and the cells and still valuable components.
Where to Recycle Your EV Battery
To properly recycle an electric vehicle (EV) battery, locate a certified recycling center specializing in handling and processing these units. Remember, due to the complex nature of EV batteries, it’s important to choose a recycler that adheres to the highest safety and environmental standards.
You can find such facilities by:
Contacting your vehicle manufacturer: Some manufacturers offer battery take-back programs.
Using government resources: Government environmental agencies often list certified recycling locations.
Checking with local automotive shops: Some shops are affiliated with recycling programs and can guide you.
Researching battery recycling networks: Look for networks or services dedicated to recycling EV batteries.
In layman’s terms, there’s still a ton of juice in your EV battery even after it has run out of juice to power your vehicle! Advances in recycling techniques aim to recover these materials efficiently to reduce the need for virgin mining and minimize the environmental footprint of EVs. Another step towards a greener road to the future.
Eveelife is an eco-oriented lifestyle platform that helps consumers make more purposeful choices about how they live and what they consume. We do it by curating content and products that help them make more conscious, carbon-free choices while amplifying their EV ownership experience.