A new report outlining best practices to recapture and recycle the materials used in electric-drive vehicle (EDV) batteries once they reach end-of-life has been published by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC).
According to the CEC, an organisation intended to facilitate collaboration and public participation to protect the environment in North America the context of increasing trade and social links among Canada, Mexico, and the US, the market in North America for electric-drive vehicles has surged over the last 10 years and the supply of end-of-life batteries for EDVs is expected to continue to increase.
The report sais that this represents a vital opportunity to recapture and recycle the valuable materials used in EDV batteries, such as nickel, cobalt, steel, and other components.
The study—carried-out in partnership with Environment Canada, Mexico’s Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Semarnat) and Instituto Nacional de Ecología y Cambio Climático (INECC), and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - examines how EDV batteries are currently managed at end-of-life across North America to best protect human health and the environment.
The report, Environmentally Sound Management of End-of-Life Batteries from Electric-Drive Vehicles in North America, warned that design changes to incorporate less costly materials in EDV batteries need to be assessed to ensure the continuing environmentally sound management of the batteries at end-of-life.
This report characterises the types, quantities, and composition of batteries used in EDVs in North America, and outlines best practices and technologies to support their environmentally sound management at end of life
Key Findings and recomendations
- It is projected that about 276,000 EDV batteries will reach EOL in North America in 2015
- Most of these batteries are likely to be nickel metal hydride (NiMH), which is the predominant battery chemistry used in HEVs
- By 2030, almost 1.5 million EDV batteries will reach EOL. By that time, close to half the EOL EDV batteries will be lithium-based, with the remainder being NiMH batteries
- The constituents of EDV batteries (mostly nickel from NiMH batteries and cobalt from Li-ion batteries) provide an economic incentive for recycling at this time. Battery designs are changing so that they contain less-valuable materials; this is a concern for the economics of future recycling efforts
- Large auto manufacturers such as Toyota and Honda are establishing reverse supply chains to ensure that EOL EDV batteries are recovered and properly recycled
- Companies already in the battery recycling business (Retriev, RMC, Umicore, Glencore/Xstrata, etc.) can process large-format NiMH and Li-ion batteries as long as they are broken down to smaller components (cells or packs). Companies with smelting operations (sometimes large global companies such as Umicore, Glencore/Xstrata, etc., with global supply chains) are interested in recycling EDV batteries because of their metal content
- The economics of recycling EDV batteries depends on the value of the metals and other materials which can be recovered. In some cases, companies pay a credit against a processing fee. In other cases a tipping fee is charged
- The recycling/processing infrastructure for EDV batteries is in its infancy, but large players are already in the market and are assessing options for future expansion. It is likely that more players will emerge over time as the supply of EOL EDV batteries increases.
According to the authors, governments should also be vigilant so that appropriate legislation is in place to support and promote the environmentally sound recycling of these batteries.
The full report can be viewed HERE
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