Since the announcement of California’s plan to ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035, many concerns have risen in regards to a future with electric vehicles and what that means for the environment and the battery recycling industry.
Lithium Ion batteries are used in many electronics today including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and many household appliances. A major issue concerning lithium batteries is their history of starting fires. When damaged, LIBs are known to cause fires and are more difficult to control and extinguish due to the chemical reaction.
For this reason, many are concerned about these batteries being used in electric vehicles. Though experts have said that EV battery fires are rare, when they do occur they burn hotter, faster and require more water to extinguish. The lithium ion batteries can even re-ignite hours or days after the fire is controlled, which leaves salvage yards, repair shops and end-of-life facilities at risk.
Other concerns raise questions about the environment such as the environmental impacts of extracting lithium, sufficient supply of materials for EV batteries, carbon emissions from battery manufacturing, and toxic waste from disposal of used batteries.
After a two-year review of the climate emissions from vehicle production, operation and disposal, the Union of Concerned Scientists found that battery electric cars generate only half the emissions of the average comparable gasoline car, even when battery manufacturing is included in the calculation.
Many companies are investing in the battery recycling industry in preparation for the switch, but what exactly does this mean for the industry as a whole? At the moment, EV batteries are not yet ready to be disposed of in large quantities, but an abundance of EV sales could result in an overflow of lithium batteries at disposition facilities, increasing the risk of battery fires. As well, overflowing disposition centers could cause many EV batteries to end up in landfills, causing toxic waste to pile up and pollute the environment.
Though we may be far from that point, it is never too early to start preparing for a more sustainable future, and solutions to the many battery problems and concerns are currently in the works.