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Battery workshop highlights recycling issues

United States – ‘Recyclers must be able to identify battery chemistry through labelling,’ it was urged at the recent fifth joint annual workshop on lithium-ion recycling hosted by the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) and the Vehicle Recycling Partnership (VRP).

Although primary design considerations for e-mobility batteries are robustness, reliability, safety and cost, it is of great importance to understand all aspects of design that ‘will likely pose particular challenges’ to the recycling industry when batteries inevitably enter the waste stream, the USABC and VRP contended. This would ease operations for vehicle and metal recyclers as well as battery dismantlers.

‘Visual differentiation’

In terms of battery labelling progress, Japan is hailed as a forerunner: the Battery Association of Japan enforced a colour-based labelling standard for small rechargeable batteries earlier this year which distinguishes lead-acid (grey), lithium-ion (blue), nickel-cadmium (green) and nickel-metal hydride (orange) batteries. The recent SAE Recommended Practice adhered to this colour scheme, and ‘added additional chemistry-specific information’ for the lithium-ion family of batteries because of ‘cathode choice variations’, it was noted.

Meanwhile, a possible long-term option is the use of colour-coded plastic housings to ‘add visual differentiation’ to Li-ion batteries. Ideally, the colour scheme would be consistent with the labelling standard. Yet successful implementation may prove challenging because of ‘company branding concerns’ and the fact that the use of recycled plastics limits the ability to colour code, the hosts pointed out.

The design for recycling phenomenon should also be applied to ensure that the battery system of electronic or hybrid cars can be easily disconnected from the vehicle refrigerant circuit, it was suggested.

Complicated connections

In a bid to further increase robustness and reliability of EVs and hybrid cars, cell-to-cell connection strategies are expected to ‘move more and more towards welding as opposed to mechanical connections’; welded connections are widely preferred over aggressively-glued or ‘epoxied’ parts. But not all recyclers were enthusiastic, arguing that welded connections would present ‘a significant complication’ to the dismantling process.

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