What will the future of battery recycling look like? Well, one thing for certain is that it will have to look a good deal different from how it does today. Batteries surely have massive potential to be a solution to many of our environmental woes. In some cases, they already have been. Consider the small USB C AAA rechargeable smart batteries that have replaced many of the traditional household AAA and AA batteries. These have an incredibly long period of use and are more efficient too. Pale Blue Earth, a company out of Park City, Utah producing such batteries, say that use of such products is a terrific way to cut household battery disposal to something approaching zero.
This example adequately shows the potential of batteries to be an environmental savior.However, there are many more contexts where batteries are usedand the situation isn’t nearly as rosy as in other domains. For example, the Li-ion batteries used inside EVs are far from fully recyclable, and when you consider that EVs are soon meant to take over our roads, a serious challenge presents itself.
A Ticking Time Bomb
This is a challenge for the future. Most car manufacturers have pledged to do away with gas-powered vehicles by sometime around the 2030s, and this means literally billions of these batteries that will, one day, need to be recycled. But theability to do this currently does not exist.
And it’s not the only problem either. The manufacture of these batteries is not currently an environmentally friendly process. The mining of the lithium needed is harmful, and the manufacturing process for these batteries is far from sustainable.
Batteries of the Future
So, where can we place our hopes. Thankfully, there is one pretty good silver lining here – if the manufacture of these batteries has been the result of cutting-edge technological development and serious investment in battery technology (which is set to continue), then perhaps we can expect technological advancements to solve the recycling problem just as it has led to the development of the remarkable technology that has caused it.
But what form can we expect this to take?
The Supply Chain
Right now, one of the touted solutions is to reclaim as much material from disposed-of batteries as possible, and then put that back into the battery supply chain. Battery casings, for example, can obviously be reused to house new contents. This is certainly one solution.
EV Battery Reuse
Another solution is to repurpose EV batteries after they can no longer efficiently power a vehicle. Powering an EV vehicle requires an li-ion battery to be in top shape, with capacity above 80% of the capacity when it was brand new. Nevertheless, after it has been reduced below this, it can still be used for other things. This process is already ongoing, but it is hoped that it can be expanded into the future.Anything to avoid the disposal of these massive batteries.
One of the reasons batteries are disposed of is that they fail. Nonetheless, sometimes this is not the result of the inevitable degradation of the capacitybut some other problem that can be repaired. In the future, it is hoped that vehicle servicing will be efficient enough to ensure as many batteries are repaired, and reused, as possible. And perhaps the same could be offered for other battery applications too.
Ultimately, there is no one sure solution for the future of battery recycling. However, the worst of the problem isn’t quite upon us yet. By the time it is, we can only hope that technological advancement will have found a way to avert it.