Australian news, and some related international items

Growth of electric cars poses a lithium battery environmental problem

Guardian 10th Aug 2017,The drive to replace polluting petrol and diesel cars with a new breed of
electric vehicles has gathered momentum in recent weeks. But there is an
unanswered environmental question at the heart of the electric car
movement: what on earth to do with their half-tonne lithium-ion batteries
when they wear out?

British and French governments last month committed to
outlaw the sale of petrol- and diesel-powered cars by 2040, and carmaker
Volvo pledged to only sell electric or hybrid vehicles from 2019. The
number of electric cars in the world passed the 2m mark last year and the
International Energy Agency estimates there will be 140m electric cars
globally by 2030 if countries meet Paris climate agreement targets.

This electric vehicle boom could leave 11m tonnes of spent lithium-ion batteries
in need of recycling between now and 2030, according to Ajay Kochhar, CEO
of Canadian battery recycling startup Li-Cycle. However, in the EU as few
as 5% (pdf) of lithium-ion batteries are recycled.

This has an environmental cost. Not only do the batteries carry a risk of giving off
toxic gases if damaged, but core ingredients such as lithium and cobalt are
finite and extraction can lead to water pollution and depletion among other
environmental consequences.

There are, however, grounds for optimism. Thus far, the poor rates of lithium-ion battery recycling can be explained by the fact that most are contained within consumer electronics, which
commonly end up neglected in a drawer or chucked into landfill. This won’t
happen with electric vehicles, predicts Marc Grynberg, chief executive of
Belgian battery and recycling giant Umicore. “Car producers will be accountable for the collection and recycling of spent lithium-ionbatteries,” he says. “Given their sheer size, batteries cannot be stored at
home and landfilling is not an option.”


August 12, 2017 - Posted by | General News

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