Over the life of your EV, it will lose range and you’ll start having to plug in more frequently. Eventually, it won’t have enough range to meet your needs. There definitely are many people looking to buy used EVs with shorter range for a good deal. But eventually, that EV is going to reach the end of its life. What happens to the battery then?
There are already millions of EVs on the road today. And that number is set to grow significantly over the next couple of decades. Every single one of those vehicles is going to have a spent battery to deal with. And we still don’t really have a great way to deal with them.
It might seem like a no-brainer to just recycle all those batteries, but it’s not that simple. Batteries can be recycled, but it’s not a very simple process. We can recover the lithium in spent batteries, but that can cost 5 times more than just mining lithium.
There are other reasons to want to recycle the raw materials in batteries. Lithium mining can cause negative environmental effects. And lithium doesn’t exactly grow on trees either, so eventually recycling will be our only option.
But recycling the raw materials isn’t our only option in the short term. A better option could be finding ways to repurpose those spent batteries. You see, those spent batteries unfit for the road often have around 70% of their original capacity left.
We can use these batteries for home energy storage. A Tesla Powerwall is pretty much just an EV battery pack bolted to a wall after all. This can provide spent EV batteries with a second life. And deploying cheap home energy storage options could significantly accelerate green energy adoption.
But ultimately, this is a temporary solution. Even if we find some way to repurpose spent grid-storage batteries, there is an end. Recycling could become more economical. Or we may work to develop safe ways to permanently dispose of these batteries. Eventually we are going to have a bunch of completely spent batteries sitting around. And we need to have a plan before that day comes.
EV battery recycling is a problem that we need to solve today. Experts were saying for years that we would find some way to make plastic recycling economically viable. We never did, and we’ve just kept letting plastic trash pile up. We can’t just let batteries pile up in the same way leeching toxic chemicals in the environment. So proper management of our batteries through their entire lifetime is essential.