Shubhankar Chaudhry is an entrepreneurial business development executive who is passionate about creating scalable tech-centric solutions. He has advised various multinational corporations to evaluate the risks and opportunities inherent in the Indian industry and to implement solutions that produce enduring results for his clients. He has extensive experience dealing with a large number of government clients and public sector undertakings; multilateral funding agencies; large private sector conglomerates.
Electric Vehicles are often highly praised due to their sustainable and eco-friendly disposition. This contributes positively to their increasing popularity in India and across the world, and also because the emissions released by these automobiles are significantly less compared to typical fuel-based cars. However, a new factor is rising in the discussion of EVs that attributes to how the eco-friendly benefits of electric vehicles can be overthrown by the challenges faced when recycling the batteries.
Recycling an electric vehicle’s battery is highly crucial; however, the process includes ample obstacles due to which the process of recycling EV batteries is considered highly demanding.
- Collecting and dismantling batteries
At least 50% of materials, in used-car batteries and accumulators, are supposed to be recycled. However, to complete recycling, the first step that producers are obligated to follow is to collect used batteries through their own means, which highly increases the cost value of the procedure. Furthermore, continuing to hire a specialist partner for recycling is also vital. Ultimately the task is befallen upon car manufacturers. And thereon, the exact process will depend upon the particular battery’s technology and composition.
For instance, if one uses a lithium-ion battery, many aspects need to be considered before recycling the battery. First, it begins with disassembly, wherein a single battery consists of at least several hundred lithium-ion cells that are together combined into large modules comprising the battery. Disintegrating such intricate parts can be highly time-consuming.
There are other electronic components to disassemble, including the ones that are responsible for functions like battery operating and assuring safe usage. In addition, the size of the battery poses another complication as it will be different from other kinds of batteries, along with various number of parts. Basically, the process of disassembly needs to be altered in accordance with a battery‘s capacity.
- Recycling each and individual lithium-ion cells
Generally, used or old and damaged EV batteries are required to be drained off their energy residue before the process of disassembly begins. Their smaller components like soldered joints, plastic, metals, and structural elements are delivered to their dedicated recycling chambers. But then comes the most significant step in the threat, which is the lithium-ion cells. They are filled with abundant chemical elements like lithium, nickel, cobalt, and manganese.
Hence, in order to recycle, these elements need to be segregated before they are treated, to make them reusable in their raw forms. This takes a highly complicated process, and a large number of human resources to recycle only a small volume. The technical process further varies following the model at hand and also the exact nature of the chemicals included.
In some instances, many prefer to begin with grinding materials, followed by a separating mechanism known as pyrometallurgy. This treatment requires exceptionally high temperatures and thus has a dedicated chamber. Later on, the steps lead to refining, with another process of high level expertise called hydrometallurgy.
Lastly, the cogency of recycling treatment is estimated by specific established criteria that include the reusability of the generated raw materials and the amount of energy disbursed into the process. This often scales on how viable it is to manufacture lithium batteries and later recycle them following this process. These estimates directly help in evaluating the approximate ecological footprint of electric vehicles.
- Reusing raw materials and entering recycled batteries into a short loop
Another obstacle that makes recycling EV batteries hard, is reusing the recently processed raw material from used batteries to manufacture a new electrical vehicle‘s battery, thus creating a short loop. This is mainly done to reduce the requirement of extraction and transportation costs. Still, in contrast, many recommend delaying the process of recycling old batteries as long as possible, so that manufacturers are able to use batteries that no longer fulfil the demands of a high powering model.
This is to prolong the life of recycled batteries so that they are not transferred to manufacturers, as damaged batteries need to be processed again. For all the recycling steps, high-level experts are needed with their specialised burners and chambers to recycle individual parts of the battery. If this newly recycled battery is quickly included in the short loop, then subsequently, it will become harder to treat and extract a high percentage of raw materials from them in the future, and ultimately it will become an indecomposable waste.
The current electric vehicle market growth in India is at 0.8%; however, it is bound to grow exponentially in the near future, owing to the significant demand for the automobile market in this country.
Evaluating the future usage and arising opportunities related to the EV sector, it is prudent to contemplate how India will manage the recycling aspect of the EV industry. Furthermore, apart from encouraging policies for EV start-ups, other challenges like lack of proper legislative guidelines are waiting to be addressed soon by the government. Therefore, in its entirety, the challenges and opportunities will soon be paved for several entrepreneurs to contribute solutions in this sector and reap benefits from its developing economy.