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New-type car batteries present major recycling challenge

Global – The governments of the USA, Canada and Mexico must ensure that design changes to incorporate less costly materials in new-type batteries for electric cars are assessed for sound environmental management.

Moreover, they must provide appropriate legislation to support and promote the recycling of the batteries, concludes a report published by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, an organisation that administers the environmental side of the North American Free Trade Agreement. By 2030, more than 1.5 million electric vehicles are expected to reach the end of their useful life in North America.

Recycling of existing batteries is driven by the value of the nickel and cobalt content but this may no longer apply if new types of battery contain less valuable components, it is stressed in the report. According to the commission, end-of-life vehicle batteries still retain around 80% of their capacity and while no longer suitable for vehicle use, they could be deployed in residential and commercial electric power management, power grid stabilisation and renewable energy system management.

The report concludes that ‘directing used electric car batteries to second-use applications could benefit the environment by delaying the recycling of batteries and fully utilising their capabilities prior to recycling’. It is also noted that, in the longer term, recycling and refurbishment of batteries will play ‘an important role’ in reducing the costs of electric car battery production.

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