Recycling e-car batteries: where do the old car batteries end up??
What happens to the batteries of electric cars when their lifetime is over?? Several startups are working on solutions. Only one seems to be missing out on the trend: the automotive industry.
The number of new electric vehicles is increasing rapidly worldwide. This also means that more and more batteries are being used. What is good for the climate on the one hand is also linked to an as yet unsolved question: what happens to the batteries of the electric cars when they have to be removed from the vehicles?. Will e-car batteries be recycled when they no longer provide sufficient power?? The question is not so easy to answer, as each manufacturer relies on different solutions. Daimler plans, for example, to convert the batteries and use them for home storage. Other manufacturers do not comment on the upcoming problems and refer to future solutions.
There are too few solutions
In fact, the complete recycling of e-car batteries is still in its infancy. Until now, the reprocessing of small smartphone batteries in particular was too cost-intensive and not worthwhile. The situation is different for the large batteries in e-cars. For example, a medium-sized battery of 50 kilowatt hours contains eleven kilograms of cobalt, six kilograms of lithium and a whopping 32 kilograms of nickel. All valuable materials that manufacturers can sell at a profit.
Surprisingly, not a single manufacturer has a precise plan of how this should actually be done. Tesla is not yet ready for this either, even though it says it is working on a program. On the one hand, it is a little surprising that no major manufacturer has thought about this in recent years. On the other hand, this is not the case when you look at how mindlessly many companies are tackling the mobility revolution.
At least VW has already found a partner for its battery production who is also thinking about it. Northvolt, founded by former Tesla managers, has set up a pilot plant in vasterås, Sweden, that will recycle up to 100 tons of batteries. However, it is calculated that in europe alone, there is a need for 33.will give 000 tons.
Startups are the hope of the auto industry
So the market is large, which also means that there is a lot of money to be made. So it’s not surprising that some promising startups have taken up the topic. For example, the company redwood materials, founded by former tesla CTO jeffrey straubel, has been working on a solution for e-car batteries for several years. the idea was worth 40 million dollars to investors last year, and amazon founder jeff bezos also participated. However, the company is still in a preparatory phase.
The canadian company li-cycle is much further along. Not only do they have a pilot plant in operation, but they also have their first customer, the bush manufacturer new flyer, which also comes from Canada. The first 30 batteries have already been successfully recycled. Like redwood materials, it is estimated that up to 95 percent of the materials contained in the batteries can be recycled.
From germany comes the startup duesenfeld. The company from lower saxony founded by frank kleineidam is working on a particularly environmentally friendly variant of recycling. While many recycling companies melt down the batteries, duesenfeld says it uses a mechanical process. This is not only cheaper, but also helps the environment, because toxic gases can be produced when the batteries are burned.
What is amazing is that almost all of these companies have managed without the support of the car companies. It seems that the industry is once again sitting out an important future topic.
This article first appeared in may 2021 and was of particular interest to many readers.
Don dahlmann has been a journalist for over 25 years and has been in the automotive industry for over ten years. Every monday you can read his column "drehmoment" here, which takes a critical look at the mobility industry.