The EU Parliament’s first Directive seek to regulate EV batteries misses a big chance to draw the most benefit from end-of-life units, according to Lincolnshire specialist engineers Autocraft.
The firm, part of Autocraft Solutions Group, calculates that a vast majority of EV batteries currently deemed exhausted and fit only for scrap, are instead far from being so.
The automotive industry’s “sector bias” towards recycling risks overlooking other routes offering easier access to sustainability goals, say the British engineers.
Specifying stiffer targets for recycling and waste collection, the new EU battery Directive seeks to embrace the whole battery lifecycle, from creation to disposal. It mandates carbon footprint labels for batteries serving EV, light transport, and industrial markets, facilitates easier replacement for all. It even introduces digital “passports” for batteries, tracking them through construction, sale and dismantling
For various battery types it sets minimum levels of component recovery and content recycling, and against specific timeframes.
Autocraft’s experts welcome the initiative. But they say it downplays more environmentally-friendly alternatives such as repair and remanufacturing. Technology in those fields already exists and can be rapidly expanded, the UK firm believes.
Mike Hague-Morgan, Executive Director at Autocraft, commented: “We believe recycling is being prioritised too early in the EV battery lifecycle. Cells, modules, and packs are being sent for premature recycling, which usually involves incineration, before every last kilowatt-hour has been exhausted from them”.
Autocraft’s data highlights the inefficiency of current recycling processes, Hague-Morgan observed.
While environmental costs of producing EV batteries are high, recycling is only slightly better, said the specialist firm’s boss.
Endowing old EV power packs with second lives accounts for approximately 53% of the electricity required to produce a new one, 14% of the water and 59% of the associated CO2 emissions.
“Given its true impact, recycling is not the ‘green’ option people perceive it to be,” Hague-Morgan asserted
Eight years after the EU legislation has been enacted, it anticipates compulsory levels of recycled metals in batteries sold across the trading block’s 27 national markets as being 16% for cobalt, 85% for lead, 6% for lithium and 6% for nickel;
Five years later, by the mid 2030s, those required shares rise further, to 26% for cobalt, 85% for lead, 12% for lithium and 15% for nickel.
The Autocraft boss notes that, while the EU draft mandates that capacity of batteries should be restored to ar least 90% of new, it describes remanufacturing as ‘an extreme case of re-use entailing the disassembly of any battery’s cells and modules.’
Hague-Morgan argues that battery remanufacturing is less of a burden than vehicle builders may believe. Autocraft already repairs and remanufactures thousands of battery packs every year for its OEM engine builders
Replacing a single battery module uses a tiny fraction of the electricity and water (3.2% and 2.8%, respectively) required to produce a virgin pack, while emitting a mere 2.9% of the amount of carbon and can be undertaken at regular intervals throughout the lifecycle.”
Autocraft’s boss said his firm’s remanufacturing supports their OEM clients in resolving warranty-linked problems, through dynamic testing and repair technology easily scaled up to meet market demands.
Awareness levels for remanufacturing remain low among vehicle makers, with misconceptions continuing to slow progress.
Hague-Morgan concluded: “Remanufacturing offers the most sustainable solution to extract all possible value from EV battery packs. Recycling is a valid option, but only once all avenues to repair and extend the life of each battery pack cell or module has been exhausted.