The second life of electric vehicle batteries
The recycling of used lithium batteries from electric cars started in Finland early this year. Valuable ingredients can be recovered from these battery types or methods can be invented for reusing them. According to projections, the number of electric cars will rise from the present three million to 125 million by the year 2030. The global lithium ion battery recycling market on the other hand is set to grow from approximately 1.7 million euros measured in 2015 to more than 20 billion euros. Nevertheless, Jaakko Savolainen, Project Manager at Fortum Waste Solutions, states that there is such a small quantity of used batteries for electric cars in Finland that EV battery recycling cannot as of yet be built into a business.
According to an article published in Kaleva discussing the second life of EV batteries, the current recycling operators of EV batteries in Finland are Fortum Waste Management, Stena Recycling and uRecycle. In the article, Jaakko Savolainen is interviewed about the interesting factors surrounding the EV battery recycling industry. Savolainen states that EV batteries are designed to last for the average life span of a car and that it is in everyone’s best interest to extend the life of the battery as far as possible and to use it primarily in an electric car. He goes on to explain that when the battery or the car around it eventually reaches the end of its life span one possibility is to make so-called second life energy reserves from these batteries. However, he does note that since the technology of electric cars is brand new, it is impossible to tell what kind of challenges the industry will be facing ten years from now.
When asked about reusing car batteries in storing excess electricity from individual solar panels, Savolainen expands on the challenges of building a business out of recycling lithium EV batteries. He states that in Finland the reuse of EV batteries is not a significant business due to their small quantity, but that various development projects are underway. He also points out that car battery systems are complex and for that reason cannot simply be hooked up anywhere hoping for the best.
Savolainen summarizes the process of lithium battery recycling saying that the batteries undergo a chemical process that ultimately results in chemicals such as cobalt and nickel which can then make their way back to the battery manufacturers. He ends by stating that it is important for Finland to invest in basic production and the processing capacity of battery materials. He asserts that Finland is a unique place in Europe with regards to the battery business and related knowledge and skills will promote the recycling process as a whole.