There was a very interesting article in the June TCE (Chemical Engineer Magazine) around battery recycling particularly in respect to EV’s, in an article called “Back from the Dead”. A company called Aceleron, ar looking behind the science, data and technology for getting the most out of Li Ion cells used in EV batteries. The sad fact is that when these batteries come to the end of their commercial life,there is 70% of SOH (State of Health) or a measure of its performance remaining. Recycling and recovering LiIon batteries is not inexpensive, and in certain case the processing can cost in real terms, more tha using new Li, and starting from scratch. Herein lies the problem, because Li is a significant element in all electronic devices. As reported in the TCE a few years back, Li is one of the rapidly disappearing elements of the periodic table. Batteries that are used for motive power also have some of the harshest usage profiles as you would imagine versus those that are used for storing energy from renewable sources such as wind or solar power.
The Eu Battery directive and UK environmental laws. state that it is the OEM , that is responsible for disposal, which is clearly the right approach, and will force EV makers to think about efficiency, recycling in a way that is both good for the consumer, and with hopefully the lowest environmental footprint. According to Aceleron, the Nissan leaf is the most popular EV in the UK with sales of circa 40,000 as of Q4 2016. Nissan estimates that disposal could cost around £2,500, which equates to circa 15% of the purchase price, which obviously a huge headache. The reason for the high processing cost is the fact that there are so many different materials present in the battery. The active materials are often powder coated onto the metal foil, which adds another level of complexity and difficulty. There are no recycling facilities currently in the UK, but a handful in Belgium, Germany and France. Furthermore, the batteries are classed as hazardous waste.
Aceleron have developed a testing regime, that includes physical inspection, and electro-chemical testing, which will determine whether the batteries are fit for re-use. There is a lot of potential energy storage currently been thrown away, and they state there is a still a lot more work to be done. It’s imperative that the testing continues, and more efficient and sustainable processes are found for battery “re-lifing”.