Millions of electric car batteries will expire in the next decade. What happens to them?
EV batteries are built to last a while, however, like any battery, they degrade over the years. This leads to reduced battery capacity, similar to what happens to the lithium-ion battery in your phone. You'll still be able to drive your car but with less range due to time and usage with a degraded battery. Most manufacturers have a five to eight-year warranty on their battery. However, the current prediction is that an electric car battery will last from 10 – 20 years before they need to be replaced.
There are predicted be 145m on the roads by 2030, Electric cars can, in some ways, be the way forward with reduced carbon emissions they also contain a potential environmental timebomb with their batteries. The lithium, nickel, cobalt, and copper inside the batteries were all, at one point, mined from the earth. They're primarily mined from places where environmental conditions are poor,
The problem with this being that when these batteries die, they will need replacements of which the ingredients and materials in them will need to be mined from the mines of which have these poor environmental conditions. Mining has the potential to release harmful substances into the soil, air, and water. Environmental issues can include erosion, formation of sinkholes, loss of biodiversity, and contamination of soil, groundwater and surface water by chemicals from mining processes.
VW said, “Traditionally, battery recycling involves either burning them to recover some of the metals, or else grinding the batteries up and treating the resulting 'black mass' with solvents.” and then went onto say, “As EV batteries contain a complicated mix of materials, current battery recycling methods require essentially melting them down in a furnace, which only recovers about 60 percent of the materials inside, the process being developed in the Salzgitter plant uses several mechanical steps designed to recover up to 95 percent of a battery pack’s materials for reuse. In an 880-pound battery pack, the plant can recover about 220 pounds of key electrode minerals like lithium, nickel, cobalt, and manganese.”
Scientists are working on ensuring that EV car batteries that are being sold today can be recycled to their full efficiency by at least 2030 and beyond, when thousands will reach the end of their warranty and date of expiry.
This diagram below shows the circular economy for a car battery and how it can be recycled backwards from it's production period: