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Battery recycling firm warns of looming EV waste problem

Autocar Thursday, 26 March 2020
Growing popularity of EVs is good news for emissions, but bad news for waste battery levels

Report suggests repurposing end-of-life batteries is necessary to prevent dangerous levels of waste

The UK could soon have a significant EV battery waste problem on its hands, according to battery recycling specialist Aceleron.

The Birmingham-based company, which produces sustainable alternatives to traditional lithium ion power cells, anticipates that “the EV revolution could create more than 11 million tonnes of battery waste worldwide a year in the next 20 years - enough to fill Wembley Stadium almost 20 times”. 

The solution, claims Aceleron, is for battery production to operate on a circular model that ensures minimal wastage and preserves valuable resources.

“By designing batteries for the circular economy from the outset, we can prevent mountains of battery waste from being created worldwide,” said CEO Dr Amrit Chandan. “The decarbonisation of transport is critical, but we are currently solving one sustainability issue while ignoring another. Waste is the elephant in the room."

To this end, Aceleron builds long-life battery packs that are designed to be repaired and reused, which means they can be given a ‘second life’, unlike conventional units. They are equipped with intelligent management software, which means their performance can be monitored remotely and individual components can be replaced when necessary.

The company has signed a new deal to supply electric ATV manufacturer Eco Charger with bespoke lithium ion power packs, of which it plans to repurpose more than 90%. The same size as traditional lead acid units, Eco Charger’s batteries are claimed to be four times more powerful and weigh half as much as a standard battery.

Reports of a looming waste battery problem are seen by some as heavily exaggerated, however. Earlier this year, Alan Colledge, senior manager at recycling firm Cawleys Hazardous Services, told Autocar sister magazine CAT: “The overall picture is positive, and it’s alarmist, unhelpful and untrue to say that we face a potential electric vehicle battery mountain in the UK.

"We should be confident that electric vehicles can be recycled well and not let concerns about battery mountains spook the market on the consumer or trade side.”

Colledge's comments came following the release of a University of Birmingham survey that claimed: “Recycling technologies for end-of-life lithium ion batteries are not keeping pace with the rapid rise of electric vehicles." 

Various vehicle manufacturers have explored ways of recycling EV batteries. In 2017, Renault unveiled a plan to convert expired units into home energy storage systems, while 500 BMW i3 battery packs have been used to store energy from a wind farm in South Wales. 

*Read more*

*Renault to repurpose EV batteries into home energy storage systems*

*BMW i3 batteries used in National Grid storage facility*

*Behind the scenes of Britain's battery revolution​*
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