EV Batteries and Waste Management

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EV Batteries and Waste Management

In his article on The Verge, Justin Calma talks about the potential wastes from electric car batteries, its mass production. To act on climate change, transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs) is necessary if we are serious about reducing CO2 emissions.

In 2017, 1 million EVs were sold worldwide (Calma, 2019). Studies have shown that EVs emit half the amount of CO2 from that of conventional cars starting from production to its end of life (Hanley, 2018).  

Hanley (2018) pointed out further:

  • Even in the state that gets almost all of its electricity from burning coal, an EV still pollutes less than a typical conventional car.
  • And if the majority of the energy is used to make and run EVs is from renewable sources then, emissions can still go down.

So, if we have agreed that EV’s have lower emissions, then we can go to next obvious problem: the possible waste from the mass production of EV batteries when it has reached its end of life.

Calma in his article “The electric vehicle industry needs to figure out its battery problem” explains:

  • Harvesting lithium-ion batteries from EVs is a tedious and risky process, but with recycling in mind battery produces reshaped its design and can use robots to automate disassembly. These ‘old’ batteries can be used to build new ones.
  • Old EV batteries can still retain up to 80% of its power so it can still be used to power shops or houses. In Japan, Toyota partnered with 7-Eleven stores to power the shops using old EV batteries attached to solar panels.
  • Using the materials of old EV batteries to make new ones, these reduce the tasks of mining new more cobalt needed to make lithium batteries.
  • EV batteries need to be standardized for robotic disassembly as using human labour to disassemble the batteries poses threats such as explosion and exposure to noxious gasses.

Electric vehicles show a lot of promise. It can reduce CO2 emissions, and can push demands for cleaner energy from renewable sources. If batteries are indeed designed with recycling and reuse in mind then this could potentially reduce battery wastes which is great for the environment.

The partnership of Toyota with 7-Eleven is particularly interesting, as it provides a model to other businesses how to recycle and repurpose used EV car batteries using solar panels or renewable energy sources.

This can be a win-win solution to reduce CO2 emissions, use of renewable energy, impact our climate adaptation efforts and most of all, reduce waste.

References:

Calma, J. (2019, November 6). The electric vehicle industry needs to figure out its battery problem. The Verge [Article]. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2019/11/6/20951807/electric-vehicles-battery-recycling

Hanley, S. (2018, February 19). Electric Car Myth Buster – Well-To-Wheel Emissions. Clean Technica [Article]. Retrieved from https://cleantechnica.com/2018/02/19/electric-car-well-to-wheel-emissions-myth/

Seven-Eleven Japan and Toyota to Launch Joint Next-generation Convenience Store Project in Autumn 2019 toward Greater CO2 Emissions Reduction. (2018, June 6). Toyota [News Release]. Retrieved from https://global.toyota/en/newsroom/corporate/22833613.html?padid=ag478_from_kv

PHOTO CREDIT: Nissan Leaf 012 Electric Vehicle Battery by Tennen-Gas – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link. The photo has been cropped to fit the website’s size requirement.

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