With the limited numbers of electric vehicles (EV) that have been sold to date and the fact that their batteries can last for seven years or more, the environmental impacts of EV lithium-ion battery recycling have not yet become a pressing issue. Nevertheless, the overall environmental benefits of converting vehicles from internal combustion to battery power are widely publicised and the change-over is being mandated by legislation to help meet global greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. While all of this is deemed to be good for the world and its inhabitants, it is less often considered that there can still be negative impacts associated with lithium-ion batteries. In terms of the environment, it is easy to think that the move from fossil fuels must undoubtedly offer major benefits and, in many areas it does, with the prospect of zero local emissions, improved air quality and the concomitant related health improvements being good examples.
On the afternoon of Monday, 6th July, the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Applied Materials Chemistry Interest Group hosted a summer webinar entitled ‘Challenges in the Recycling of Lithium-ion Batteries’. The webinar’s aim was to discuss the current waste and recycling industry approach for batteries, share information on the latest research in lithium-ion battery recycling and to define challenges in the field for researchers to adopt in the pursuit of a greener future. The event began with an introduction and overview of the RSC’s Applied Materials Chemistry Group by Edward Randviir of Manchester Metropolitan University, who also chaired the event.
The importance of battery recycling has become increasingly appreciated in recent years, since battery uncontrolled disposal and consignment to landfill can lead to environmental issues and result in the loss of potentially valuable materials. With the world now well underway towards converting its transport from internal combustion to electrical power, the demand for battery recycling, repurposing and recovery is set to expand enormously over the next twenty years. This undoubtedly offers many significant opportunities, but it is also a potential source of problems that must be addressed if the full benefits of using batteries are to be realised. On the positive side, recycling can provide the raw materials required for making new batteries, thereby reducing demand from primary mining sources and the associated negative impacts. For example, there have long been concerns about the way cobalt is extracted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with its use of artisanal mining, unsafe and hazardous working conditions, and the use of child labour.
The recycling industry has traditionally been a male dominated environment. With the once familiar scrap yard having rows of end of life vehicles stacked two or three high in a windswept, rain-soaked field, it is unsurprising that recycling attracts the number of people it does. Of course, these images no longer represent the main body of recycling activities, where sophisticated technological solutions are increasingly utilised to recover as much valuable material as possible in the most efficient manner. This is particularly true of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment and is likely to be even more important with electric vehicle (EV) batteries and their associated materials and components
Future Powertrain Conference (FPC2020) is a two-day UK event which brings together industry and academic experts in the field of powertrain development. Presentations and discussions are held on the solutions to challenges faced by the engineering industry in the UK and internationally over the next ten years. With over 50 presenters and more than 200 companies attending, this event is seen as key to helping strengthen the UK engineering community and to meeting future challenges. This year the conference took place on 4th and 5th March, at the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull.
VALUABLE was represented at FPC2020 by project lead Alberto Minguela (HSSMI). VALUABLE was present on the HSSMI stand, which included two other HSSMI projects – Perseus and E:PriME, and Alberto also had a speaking slot on the second day of the conference.