A leading UK recycler is calling for greater effort to decarbonise the growing number of electric vehicles (EVs), especially with many countries adopting a ban on fossil fuel-run cars in the coming two decades.
Steve Thomas, UK end-of-life vehicle manager for EMR, says industries have to confront the challenge of embodied carbon emissions in EVs. ‘If manufacturers are to create a generation of truly decarbonised EVs, they need to work hard to reduce the amount of materials they use from primary sources that extracted from ore that is dug out of the ground,’ he says.
He believes that EMR and other metal recyclers can play an essential role as the advanced technology and EV components are significantly different to those of the diesel and petrol cars.
‘As recyclers, this creates a challenge. If we put an EV through a traditional shredder, the rare earth magnets contained in its electronic systems would get stuck to other materials or shatter and be lost, while the lithium-based battery could catch fire. We need a different approach to recycling the vehicles of the future and that’s what EMR is currently developing.’
In the UK, the Government is funding research into new EV supply chains and the project includes EMR and car manufacturers Jaguar Land Rover, BMW and Bentley as well as other specialists.
Thomas says a further challenge is separating out the components of EVs, such as electric motors, computer systems and sensors which may not have been built with end-of-life in mind. With many bonded or welded together, it is a complex job simply to separate components for recycling.
‘Eventually this may get easier as vehicle designers start to build cars with recycling in mind but the current generation of tough-to-process EVs will be coming to our sites for the next 15 years, so we need to be ready.’
He says EMR is preparing for the changes. It operates a network of 50 authorised treatment facilities processing end-of-life vehicles around the UK but currently only seven have EV recycling capability. It is preparing to roll this out to all ATFs.
‘As electric vehicles become ubiquitous, every part of the automotive industry faces new challenges – from car makers to dealerships, oil companies with networks of service stations, to mechanics whose skills will need to change,’ Thomas concludes.
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