The battery market is growing along with the growing demand for electric vehicles. To recycle all of the batteries produced, companies need to think about technology now. New battery design, full recycling, and blockchain tracking are expected to be the main trends in this industry.
The boom in electric vehicles is growing, and many states are actively encouraging their sales with subsidies and tax breaks to protect the global climate and improve the environment. At the same time, a key component of such vehicles, batteries, contain toxic substances and can cause considerable damage to the environment without proper disposal.
The global size of the electric car market is going to reach $802.81 billion by 2027. Deloitte
predicts that demand for lithium will double or even triple during next ten years. Most of the demand will come from electric car manufacturers. The size of the lithium-ion battery market
is expected to reach $ 46 billion by 2026, and analysts are concerned about the outlook for the lithium industry.
There are two ways to avoid the economic and environmental crisis. The first is the production of a new type of battery, more durable and recyclable. The second is the correct and traceable recycling of used batteries. And these solutions work best together.
Research and development in the production and recycling of batteries rely on lithium-metal batteries. The maximum theoretical capacity of lithium-metal batteries is more than twice the capacity of lithium-ion batteries. The batteries of the future store up to 500wh/kg, which will double the mileage of electric cars on a single battery charge. Also, this type of battery can run much longer.
Researchers from the US Department of Energy's Pacific National Laboratory
have found an opportunity to extend the performance of lithium-metal batteries without significant degradation of the anode. The secret of the new development of PNNL lies in the use of thin strips of lithium on the anode instead of a thick solid layer. Scientists are keen to first bring the energy storage density to 500wh/kg, which will make the transition to new energy storage profitable.
Other studies also bring the output of lithium-metal batteries closer. Scientists at Stanford University
are working on this type of battery manufacturing process. The lithium-metal battery factory, the company, is due to start production at the end of the year.
Reusing this type of waste is one of the most difficult problems of recycling. Almost all batteries contain toxic substances in the form of various metals and chemicals: lead, nickel, cadmium, zinc, mercury, silver oxide, cobalt, and lithium. Mercury and lithium batteries as suppliers of mercury and lithium to the natural environment pose a vast danger. In addition, lithium can spontaneously react with air oxygen and ignite.
With all the importance, this issue will arise in Europe by 2028-2030, when the batteries of electric cars, which in the coming years will enter the European market, will work out their battery resources. So far, e-waste companies are not required to report the collection, recycling, and recycling of batteries under e-waste management, even if they keep an internal record of the process.
Market growth is impossible without the implementation of technologies
Unsolved recycling issues can lead to significant environmental changes (Tom Fisk www.pexels.com)
Blockchain opens access to reliable data for all participants in the chain and makes traceability reliable
Unlike the fragmented and not very large European battery recycling market, the Chinese recycling industry
is much more influential, with its basis being several large companies. They have grown, processing lithium-ion batteries from consumer electronics, and have already become crucial suppliers of recyclables to local manufacturers. Now they are increasingly engaged in electric car battery recycling: the widespread use of electric cars occurred in China earlier than in Europe. Europeans who have already fallen behind Asian competitors (not only China but also Japan and South Korea) in the production of batteries for electric vehicles now risk falling behind in the field of their disposal.
Battery recycling is required not only for environmental but also for economic reasons: reuse of rare materials will grow as they become more expensive in the conditions of the boom of electric cars. Local economics and security should exclude dependence on external suppliers, including those from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Electric cars with toxic batteries do not face a random spread as it happens to old cars with internal combustion engines rotting in landfills. China has already introduced a strict system
of labeling and tracking batteries. It is a helpful model for Europe, and recycling companies should follow it.
Specialized battery recycling centers for electric vehicles must accept, sort, store, package, and ship worn-out devices. It will also use digital tools to track and collect storage inventory data. The information will be sent to electric vehicle manufacturers, who in turn will have to report their battery recycling data promptly.
To protect data and make supply chains resilient, battery manufacturers are already using blockchain technology
. Distributed ledger opens access to reliable information for all participants in the chain and makes traceability trusted
. In addition, Internet of Things sensors and robots are embedded in the supply chain. Using robots could eliminate risks for humans and make the process fast enough. However, for full recycling, we need to change the configuration and design of the batteries and introduce identical production standards.
Scientists and manufacturers have a crucial challenge on which the future of the planet depends. Instead of cheapening and polluting the environment, you need to choose replaceability, recyclability, and reuse. The circular economy
that we are heading for requires a lot of effort from scientists and the responsibility of producers.
MediaArticlesResearch, recycling, tracking: How to prevent the battery boom from becoming a destructive explosion