Myth Busted: Battery Recycling Is Already Feasible


Don’t let anybody convince you that we can’t recycle EV batteries or that it’s too difficult.

There are a plethora of myths out there about electric cars. Two of the more consistent pieces of propaganda are that EV production and energy sources pollute the air more than gas cars, and batteries are full of hazardous waste that can’t be easily safely or easily recycled and will eventually cause all sorts of environmental damage. The former has been debunked time and time again, while the latter hasn’t been addressed as thoroughly. Now, we have proof that battery recycling is viable, despite the fact that a standard system and regulatory framework are yet in place.

EV battery packs are teeming with materials that could be of use once the cells no longer function properly. We’re talking about a variety of metals, plastics, and liquid electrolytes. It’s necessary to recycle these materials in order to protect the environment, not to mention driving battery costs down into the future. However, since it will be several years before most of these electric vehicle batteries to be ready for recycling, little work or research has been done to set up a recycling network and process. Not to mention the fact that current processes are considered difficult and costly.

Duesenfeld in Wendeburg, Germany has already figured out the battery recycling situation ahead of a significant need for the service. According to Duesenfeld, the task, which many other companies have claimed is exceedingly difficult, is not so. In summary, this is because rather than using high temperatures to thermally decompose the battery cells and burn their electrolytes,  Duesenfeld shreds and/or crushes the modules, after which the electrolyte simply evaporates. Finally, magnets and oxygen are used together to separate any remaining substances.

There are plenty of more specific details in the source article. Click below for more information.

Source: electrive

Categories: Battery Tech, General


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43 Comments on "Myth Busted: Battery Recycling Is Already Feasible"

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The recent die off of huge parts of The Great Barrier Reef, due to Coral Bleaching and warmer ocean temps , could be fixed with the dumping of depleted EV car batteries, creating a long lasting Cobalt Reef! /S

The ocean EV battery dump and reef is going to be a world class electric eel under water luxury condo!

It’s Sarcasm after all, Geesh!

Apparently a lot of people don’t know that /s stands for sarcasm. At least you tried, William. Some of us appreciate it anyway.

The problem isn’t in the process, the process is well known. The problem is in the economics. There are very limited facilities in the US with this capability and they can’t process the volume that will be required. And shipping batteries which weigh hundreds of pounds, which require protected high voltage transportation if they’re out of a vehicle, is expensive. It is an economic net negative, as in the value of the recovered components does not compensate for the cost of shipping, (even cobalt containing batteries).

This means people are not going out of their way to recycle these, unlike in Nicad or Nimh batteries, which do make economic sense. You don’t need to worry about their recycling because anyone wanting to make money will scoop them up and have them recycled, it is a different equation for lithium ion batteries, which is why legislation will be necessary to get them recycled.

From the article “It is part of the sometimes disappointing reality of life that recycling is not yet worthwhile despite rising resource prices. It is still cheaper to produce new lithium or cobalt.” This is a complex problem that still requires more work.

Excepting with the building of all the battery factories, this would be a relatively simple add-on. If the process would a vertical integration such as the old Ford River Rouge system, someone in the automotive industry would be able to streamline, save money and lower prices. Complex? Not really. Detailed? Definitely.

Complex? Not really?
I don’t know of anywhere that there’s a production facility that exists that will separate the lithium, cobalt, aluminum, copper in car batteries currently. I certainly hope someone is working on it.
If it were easy someone would have a facility for it already.

And you missed the point…the solution isn’t complex. It’s as I wrote. As always, the devil is in the details. Inputs go in one end and come out finished product on the other. It would involve a recycling plant on one side, with the car manufacturing on the other side, with a point where they intersect the two processes into one production stream. Complex? No. Detailed? Yes. BTW, logistics are part of the details. Construction is part of the details. As I said, vertical integration is how to make it work.

That’s what Tesla’s GF1 is supposed to do, once completed: raw materials and old packs go in, and new packs come out. Whether every pack will be for vehicles, or whether some will be for storage/grid leveling – that remains to be seen.

I haven’t heard of Tesla even starting with a plan to recycle batteries yet. I’m sure it’s on there to do list, but doing it will require quite a bit of engineering. I doubt they would have it it the GF1 building.

Ron Swanson's Mustache

Evidently they’ve already got a program in place to recycle Tesla batteries/packs/materials:

That was the original plan. They went a different way. Eliminating all the raw material processing is what grew the final capacity from 35 to 105 GWh/year in the same footprint.

Integrating electrode material production is still planned. It’s one of the steps for achieving $100/kWh at pack level.

The source article clearly states that avoiding transportation is one of the benefits of their process.

Large-scale Li-ion battery recycling is not yet in place, but battery pack re-manufacturing companies are popping up here and there. When a battery pack’s performance starts to decline, you don’t necessarily have to replace the entire pack. The pack re-manufacturers identify the pack’s bad cells/components and replace them.

Renault have had a program for reuse and recycle of EV batteires since 2015.

That may work for Leaf batteries, where the lack of active cooling can result in vastly differing degradation of the individual cells. In properly cooled packs, cells should generally age all at about the same rate.

I think we knew it was ‘technically’ feasible. Is it ‘financially’ feasible?

That is the key point. It starts with retrieving the batteries from all over the place and bringing them to the facilities. It gets even more interesting if we are talking about batteries from cars that have been in an accident and can’t be handled anymore with normal equipment.

There is rarely economic feasibility in any type of recycling but the purpose of doing it goes beyond that. Imagine requiring all car manufacturers to build air purifying plants to cover the emissions of all the cars they sell….will that be economically feasible? Truth is many industries are dumping their garbage on us and expect us to clean so they can maintain their nice fat profits.

Yeah there’s plenty of Superfund sites around the country. A lot are military nuclear. Some are industry’s like GE and Coal Tar pits next to rivers around the country.
Taxpayers on the hook for cleaning up all these sites.

It seems like the natural progression of batteries will be after their EV life they will be broken down and used for energy storage and last for years…

I throw my batteries in the garbage.

Trolls do that.

Which is exactly the wrong thing to do. Even alkaline batteries can be recycled.
My local Supermarket has containers right at the entrance for this very purpose.
Larger batteries are gladly taken by my local council.

And where do they go?

There recycled. What do you think happens to all the lead acid batteries from cars. There dumped into a hopper where there broken apart into a trough that moves it down the line, plastic, lead, copper, electrolytes, etc. are all recycled. Only about 5% goes to a landfill.
YouTube a video of it. I haven’t seen anything like it for lithium ion batteries or cells.
Just because it can be done if it’s not economical or mandated by regulations it won’t happen. We need to get ahead of the curve in a few years there will be thousands of batteries that need to be economically recycled.

And do you burn your used motor oil in your backyard fire pit? Just because you can doesn’t make it a good idea.

You can use old motor oil to fertilize your lawn.

Or cooking….same as olive oil just different color. It’s going to be the new trend…just watch.

I’m baffled that people apparently haven’t watched Fight Club. People really should, it becomes more relevant by the day.

I hope you have a really, really big garbage can to throw out your old EV packs.

Another Euro point of view

As I understood it the world’s top company regarding battery metals recycling is Umicore. What would them have to say about this technology ? That would be interesting.

2018-10-15 BMW Group, Northvolt and Umicore join forces to develop sustainable life cycle loop for batteries

Looks like Europe is in the lead for recycling lithium ion batteries.

I’m sure Umicore has something very similar in the works. Extracting various elements from shredded batteries is very similar to extracting various elements form ores — which is Umicore’s primary business…

It is already inplace in Norway.

The myth of lithium ion batteries not being recyclable stems from media gathering flawed data and going with it.

It all stems from the fact that cellphone and laptop lithium ion batteries have poor recycle rate. The media sees this and assumes this applies to automotive lithium ion which is total nonsense.

There are 2 reasons why cellphone/laptop lithium ion batteries aren’t recycled much:
1) It is a tiny amount – Try going to a metal scrapper trying to sell them a small piece of metal that is size of a quarter for recycling. They’ll look at you like an idiot because it isn’t worth their time recycling something so small.
2) There are multiple chemistries used in lithium ion batteries – while LCO is the most common, there is still variations even in LCO from different annodes to different composition of electrolytes.

EV recycling is a completely different story, EVs have a TON of cells, making it economic to recycle them in bulk.

***Minor edit:

“despite the fact that a standard system and regulatory framework are not yet in place”

And the Tesla battery factory in Nevada has already been provisioned to recycle the batteries.

Translation: some empty space has been set aside for more empty promises.

Translation: Some space they plan to build some day will be set aside….

Yeah compared to hazmat disposal fees, lithium ion battery recycling will likely be extremely profitable.