The Looming problem of Electric Car’s Recycling

Tesla made an announcement to phase out the use of cobalt in its batteries in the bid to manufacture an electric car costing $25,000. The success of the project will be a significant game-changer in the sector and will help make the pricing of electric vehicles competitive. Though the announcement seems a good move towards affordable electric cars, the shift from cobalt will complicate EVs’ transition. This is because, without the use of cobalt, there will be less financial incentive to recycle the big batteries used to run the cars, which could turn out to be an environmental disaster.

The main reason for advocating for the use of EVs is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb the effects of climate change. The shift is also expected to lower the health risks associated with vehicle emissions significantly. With the new trend, every major car manufacturing company has already enrolled one electric car in its production, with even some of the companies hinting at eradicating gas and diesel engines’ production.

Though the change to electric vehicles’ use is seen as a safer and cleaner option, there are issues associated with the program. Each EV, especially the hybrid vehicles, uses huge Li-ion batteries that can weigh up to hundreds of pounds. For instance, the battery for Mercedes Benz EQC weighs around 1,400 pounds. The components used to make the battery include cobalt, nickel, and manganese, making the batteries expensive to manufacture and come with environmental baggage. Improper disposal of these batteries can lead to environmental pollution because of the nature of the components used to manufacture them.

In order to tap and have a share in the new market, motor vehicle manufactures are applying the same techniques which were adopted by the plastic industry. The manufactures, just like those in plastics, are claiming the recycling of used batteries of which none of the Li-ion batteries are recyclable, just like the way paper, glass, and lead car batteries are.

Though research is underway to develop effective recycling technology, a quick resolution to the problem may not be attainable. The battery manufacturers are yet to develop technology that can extract components economically to make new batteries. The thing usually done is the batteries’ processing to extract cobalt and other expensive components, with the remaining skeleton being released as air emissions or used as filler in construction. This explains the small figure in the batteries that are currently being recycled.