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Thread: Electric Vehicles : How green are all those dead batteries going to be?!

  1. #1 Electric Vehicles : How green are all those dead batteries going to be?! 
    Forum Sophomore Double Helix's Avatar
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    The BBC News has an article out on the problems with disposing/recycling all the lithium etc. batteries which will be generated from millions of electric cars, SUVs, etc.

    All of these dead batteries will require some form of treatment other than the garbage. And the need will ramp up quickly it would seem, within the coming years, as many more vehicles hit the road.

    Recycling batteries will have to become a major industry if this is going to work :


    "Electric cars: What will happen to all the dead batteries?"

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56574779


    And we better hope these electrics are going to help reduce warming since BBC News also reports an increase in the rate of glacier melting (no surprise there, really) :

    "Climate change: World's glaciers melting at accelerating rate"

    https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-56921164



    Last edited by Double Helix; April 28th, 2021 at 05:23 PM.
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    Battery recycling almost certainly will grow, both for the sake of safe disposal as well as recovery of valuable materials. Provisions for appropriate recycling/disposal are increasing included with the sale of EV's. The problems are foreseeable and are being taken seriously, ahead of expected high uptake.

    The alarmist fears of being overwhelmed with battery and other RE waste is way overstated - because the scale of existing, fossil fuel related waste streams cannot be overestimated; a shift to RE will greatly reduce the overall amounts of problematic waste.

    For comparison purposes, Australia expects high uptake of batteries, including household (solar), cordless tools, EV's and grid batteries and expects around 100,000 metric tons p.a. of batteries for disposal by 2050. Australia currently makes 12.5 million tons p.a. of heavy metals contaminated, chemically reactive coal ash (fly ash). And then there is CO2 - about 20x more of that than coal ash which works out about 5,000x more than projected battery waste. I suspect that estimate of battery waste is way too low but a large portion will be recycled. Coal ash gets "recycled" as an additive in concrete, usually with marketing claims of being "clean", with less emissions - I think leaving an unwanted ongoing legacy of contaminated concrete - but mostly is not "recycled", just buried as landfill, often with leaching and other problems. Capturing CO2 for storage at large scales is not a viable option. Most that is (often receiving emissions reduction funding) gets pumped underground to enhance extraction of oil and gas and adds to emissions.

    Shifting to RE is a good move with respect to waste.


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    Forum Sophomore Double Helix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fabos View Post
    Shifting to RE is a good move with respect to waste.
    It is beyond doubt that we need to shift to RE, but there are clearly tradeoffs in some areas. After reading about the problems with advanced rechargeable batteries, and their need for recycling with no infrastructure in place yet to do this, it seems like another potential build up of nasty waste. And if the cost of recycling is much higher than mining the materials, governments will have to mandate what may be a costly recycling process, and thereby increasing the cost of EVs, perhaps significantly.

    Reminds me of all the nuclear waste building up. People tell us that nuke plants are really clean sources of energy, which is true (barring meltdowns, etc.). But all those spent fuel rods are sitting around, with still no firm, long-term storage plans. And this situation persists decades after the realization that such storage is essential to sequester this ghastly stuff.

    The worry remains that this will happen with batteries - that they will accumulate in long term storage while someone figures out what to do with them. The BBC story does indicate what appears to be significant hurdles to recycling efficiently. As suggested above, perhaps the need for recycling the batteries for their contents will drive such an industry. And advances in battery technology might render this issue less significant, which seems rather likely for various reasons, not the least being to escape reliance on certain elements which are difficult to source.

    We can only hope that EVs will provide a net positive impact on the overall environmental aspects so desperately needed.
    Last edited by Double Helix; May 8th, 2021 at 05:13 PM.
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    Most existing or intended EV makers are already involved with operating or developing battery recycling and are including provisions to take back batteries. I don't think it is being neglected.

    There is next to zero possibility of dropping a dead EV off at any landfill site here in Australia and expecting them to take it. Or for metal recyclers to take them and crush them like old ICE, not without removing the batteries. Small batteries are more problematic than EV or RE batteries, tending to get mixed in with regular household waste even where recycling/safe disposal is available.
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    Most likely it will be Lithium-Sulfur batteries which will be mass used in electric vehicles in a few decades. Fortunately neither Lithium or pure Sulfur are toxic. Much less than Lead and Sulfuric acid which are used in traditional car batteries for the later 100 years. Yet, Lead-acid are recycled successfully. Even extraction of Lithium ($100/kg) from old batteries could make their recycling commercially profitable.
    Last edited by Stanley514; May 28th, 2021 at 08:52 AM.
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