Academics Warn Of A Mountain Of Batteries

Wed 6th Nov 2019

Demand for EV cars may be seen as a step towards a greener future, but a new study has revealed a worrying consequence of so many end-of-life car batteries.

Academics from the University of Birmingham have suggested that the motor industry may need to build eight so-called ‘gigafactories’ to help recycle the millions of batteries which are expected to be decommissioned.

According to the research there will be 250,000 tonnes of unprocessed pack waste batteries coming from the one million cars sold globally in 2017 - these car’s batteries coming to the end of their life. These early pioneers of electric motoring are expected to reach the end of their life five to ten years after being sold.

“The recycling challenge is not straightforward: there is enormous variety in the chemistries, shapes and designs of lithium ion batteries used in EVs,” said Dr Gavin Harper from the University of Birmingham, who was the lead author of the research paper.

“Individual cells are formed into modules, which are then assembled into battery packs. 

“To recycle these efficiently, they must be disassembled and the resulting waste streams separated. 

“As well as lithium, these batteries contain a number of other valuable metals, such as cobalt, nickel and manganese, and there is the potential to improve the processes which are currently used to recover these for reuse.”

With the growth in electric vehicles anticipated to rise as the government encourages the public to move away from petrol and diesel cars, the study suggests that the UK could boost their economy by becoming the home of battery recycling. As demand for lithium ion batteries grows, the UK could build eight gigafactories which would deal with the waste products that the batteries bring with them.