The enormous environmental problem of electric cars that we are going to suffer

For 2030, the EU hopes there will be 30 million electric cars on european roads. Even though electric cars don’t emit carbon dioxide during their lifetime, he worries about what happens when they run out, particularly what happens to the batteries. That is why, in 10 or 15 years, when a large number of them reach the end of their useful life, it will be very important that we have a recycling industry.

Although most of the components of electric vehicles are very similar to those of conventional cars, the big difference is the battery. While traditional lead-acid batteries are widely recycled, the same cannot be said for the lithium-ion versions used in electric cars.

The enormous environmental problem of electric cars that we are going to suffer What to do with the millions of electric batteries that no longer work?

The enormous environmental problem of electric cars that we are going to suffer What to do with the millions of electric batteries that no longer work?

Electric vehicle batteries are bigger and heavier than those in normal cars and are made up of several hundred individual lithium-ion cells, which must be disassembled. They contain hazardous materials and have an uneasy tendency to explode if disassembled incorrectly.

Electric vehicle batteries slowly lose capacity over time. and current vehicles lose an average of 2% autonomy per year. Over many years, autonomy can be noticeably reduced. Electric vehicle batteries can be repaired and individual battery cells can be replaced if they fail. But there is a risk that, after many years of service and several hundred thousand miles, the entire battery pack may have to be replaced if it has degraded too much.

The concern of most environmentally conscious people is that there is no system in place to deal with these retired parts. After all, lithium-ion battery packs typically take up the length of the car’s wheelbase, weigh about 500 kilos and are composed of toxic elements. Can they be easily recycled or are they destined to pile up in landfills?

The recent proposals of the European Union would force electric vehicle suppliers to ensure that their products are not simply thrown away at the end of their useful lifel, and manufacturers are already beginning to step forward.

Nissanfor example, is reusing old batteries from its Leaf cars in the automated guided vehicles that deliver parts to workers in its factories. Volkswagen is doing the same, but has also recently opened its first recycling plant, in Salzgitter (Germany), and plans to recycle up to 3,600 battery systems per year during the pilot phase.

Renault, for its part, it now recycles all the batteries in its electric cars, though as things stand, it’s only a couple of hundred a year. It does so through a consortium with the French waste management company Veolia and the Belgian chemical company Solvay.

Governments are moving towards requiring some level of recycling. In 2018, China imposed new rules aimed at promoting the reuse of battery components for electric vehicles. The European Union is expected to finalize its first requirements this year. In the United States, the federal government has not yet made progress on recycling mandates, but several states, including California – the nation’s largest auto market – are considering setting their own rules.

Fulfilling them will not be easy. Batteries differ greatly in their chemistry and construction, which makes it difficult to create effective recycling systems. In addition, the cells are often attached with strong glues that make it difficult to disassemble. This has contributed to an economic hurdle: It’s often cheaper for battery manufacturers to buy freshly mined metals than to use recycled materials. Surely this trend must change. For the good of the planet.

More news that may interest you:

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Recycling, a pending issue worldwide

The profitability of organic waste encourages recycling

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