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A plus or minus?

Electric cars; you have probably read about them, seen at least one or drove one. We know the pros and cons, they are great for the environment but are a little pricey and don’t have the greatest range. Besides all of that it seems like they are here to stay and like any new thing especially in energy it will get better over time. Eventually the cost will come down, range will improve and they will charge faster.

 

That is all great but when they have fully infiltrated the market there might be a new problem that comes along with it; battery disposal.

 

This is an excerpt from bipowerusa.com outlining the current lithium ion battery disposal:

 

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate the disposal of batteries in small quantities; large quantities are regulated under the Universal rules of Hazardous Waste regulations (40 CFR PART 273). Lithium batteries are not currently being collected by manufacturers for recycling. Lithium batteries are currently disposed of after their use. While there are no federal regulations for disposal of lithium batteries, individual states or localities can establish their own guidelines for battery disposal, and should be contacted for any disposal guidelines that they may have.

 

Batteries for commercial use should be in a discharged condition prior to their disposal. Generally, a primary lithium cell is considered to be discharged once its voltage reaches 2 volts or less under a current of C/100 (C is the rated capacity of the battery in ampere-hours). Once discharged, large quantities of lithium batteries can be shipped to a hazardous waste facility for incineration. There are a few companies that recycle Lithium Batteries. The cost is quite significant to do this compared to incineration.”

 

The bottom line is that they are hazardous waste and there are not many disposal guidelines. This really seems like it could grow into a serious issue if more and more people start driving them. At least the batteries in electric cars are supposed to last the lifetime of the car. So this big issue is not so big right now.

 

So what steps are we taking to find a different way to dispose of these or recycle them? The US Department of Energy awarded $9.5 million to Toxco in order to build the first recycling facility for lithium-ion car batteries. Major electric car battery manufacturers such as Tesla have already begun to send battery packs to them. There is also the idea out there to use them to store energy; since after initial use they only retain about 70-80% of their original capacity. There might one day be a bundle with electric cars and solar panels so the battery can have multiple uses and be recycled.

 

So what do you think? Can this recycling be implemented before mass amounts need to be disposed of? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

Instead of worrying about a problem that doesn't yet exist, a more timely question is what is happening to the millions of cell phone batteries that are trashed annually. Add to that the billions of AA, AAA, C, and D cell batteries used in households across America and disposed of in the garbage and the problem of recycling electric car batteries pales in comparison. Adding even more fodder for discussion is the issue of lead acid batteries from cars finding their way into landfills. The fact that Toyota and Tesla both have programs in place for recycling batteries used in their the hybrid and electric vehicles should go a long way toward making this issue much less worrisome than the proper disposal of the everyday batteries people have been using for decades.

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