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Is There a Better Way to Recycle Electric Vehicle Batteries?


With the growing number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the world’s roads, the notion of recycling or recovering recyclable elements from their batteries is becoming a cause for concern. This has prompted numerous scientists to consider better, more sustainable, and less hazardous solutions seriously.

A combination of thermal pre-treatment and hydrometallurgy is one solution that has the industry buzzing. Here, aqueous chemistry is applied in the metal recovery process – but the key issue is that every company that uses this dual method uses different temperatures and times; there is, as yet, no standard for it.

But a recent study from Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology sought to figure out the optimal temperature for thermal treatment paired with hydrometallurgical processes to safely and properly recycle lithium-ion (LiOn) EV batteries.

The Findings

It was noted in the study that keeping things at room temperature will actually suffice with a processing time of around 30 minutes.

This previously untested technique is expected to have numerous benefits, including a less adverse impact on the environment along with lower recycling costs due to a faster, more efficient process. Current methods have facilities heating the batteries up to 80 degrees Celsius, and processing runs for several hours.

Different steps affect each other in the dual process. Key points of comparison were between incineration and pyrolysis. Both are more eco-friendly than oxygen. Pyrolysis gave better results.

Can It Be Applied to Other Forms of LiOn Battery Recycling?

However, according to Associate Professor Martina Petranikova of Chalmers’ Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, the processes already in use need to be modified to meet the potential surge in demand for battery recycling facilities. In addition, Petranikova believes that processes involved in recycling EV batteries can also be applied for recycling LiOn batteries used for other purposes such as mobile telephony.

She went on to say that cost reduction was another key point for modification, stating that there is a need to reduce the number of steps involved in the recycling process if operational costs were to be kept at a bare minimum.

Petranikova and her team at Chalmers are currently working on several projects aimed at retooling the overall LiOn battery recycling process. Collectively, they expressed hope that better collaborations among researchers and developers of related technologies will go a long way toward process improvement.

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