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Image of the article author Gina Aquilano
Джина Аквилано,

Директор департамента автомобильных технологий | Analog Devices

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Джина Аквилано
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EV BATTERY RECYCLING OR REUSE? BOTH


Take a look around: while you may not hear them due to their lack of a combustion engine, electric vehicles (EVs) are quietly taking up a larger share of the road. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, 2.3 million electric vehicles were sold in 2020—a 4x increase over EV sales just five years earlier. This seismic shift is being driven by consumer demand, expanding charging infrastructure for EV batteries, and cities and countries enacting regulations that favor electrification. While touted as a green alternative to combustion engines and fossil fuels, EVs have an Achilles heel: what to do with all those half-ton EV batteries when they can no longer hold a large enough charge to power the vehicle?

Today, EV battery recycling is the most common option, a process that recovers some, but not all, raw materials such as cobalt and lithium. However, EV battery recycling is costly, unregulated, and lacks a clearly defined supply chain.


Watch Gina Aquilano, ADI Director of Technology, talk about how battery reuse and recycling is important to her and her family.

THE COST OF DISCARDED BATTERIES IS GROWING

Batteries remain the major area of focus for electric vehicle cost efficiencies. Batteries are the heart of the electric vehicle and can make up roughly 30% of the total cost of an EV. But marked improvements are in store: significant advancements in battery chemistry and electronics are driving down costs and enabling efficient battery reuse and second life, and EV battery recycling, which could deliver the cost advantages needed to push EV adoption past the tipping point.

 

~30%
OF EV COST = THE BATTERY

Electric Car Statistics and Facts 2021 | Policy Advice

Efficient battery health monitoring throughout a battery’s first life, and any subsequent lives, will help build trust between battery buyers and sellers. This trust will allow batteries to be treated as an asset that OEMs can use to recoup some of their initial battery investment and potentially pass that savings on to consumers.

STARTING IN 2035, 10 MILLION EV BATTERIES COULD BE DISCARDED EVERY YEAR (MORE THAN THE MASS OF THE GREAT PYRAMID OF GIZA)

Graphic displays an entire field of pyramids showing millions of EV battery waste

There are currently 10 million EVs on the road today. By 2025, there will be an estimated 10 million EVs sold … every year.1 Given that the average effective life of an EV battery is approximately 10 years, by 2035 the number of EV batteries discarded each year will be 1.3–1.5 times the mass of the Great Pyramid of Giza (5.8 million tons).2

1. Global EV sales by scenario, 2020-2030 – Charts – Data & Statistics - IEA
2. As electric vehicles take off, we'll need to recycle their batteries (nationalgeographic.com)

FIRST RE-USE, THEN RECYCLE

Battery reuse is the process of identifying cells within a pack that can still hold a viable charge, disassembling the pack, and reassembling using those viable cells. This alternative to recycling, or more accurately an interim step, is emerging in the form of what is called “battery second life.” When a vehicle’s lithium-ion battery degrades to 70% to 80% percent of its original charge capacity—usually after eight to 10 years—it can no longer efficiently power the vehicle and needs to be replaced. The growing supply of these retired batteries is creating a new market opportunity that is referred to as the “second-life battery sector.”

Patrick Morgan
“In the next five years, there will be 5x as many EVs on the road as today. Reusing and recycling the battery assets from EVs helps create a circular economy that saves energy and builds value for consumers.”

Патрик Морган

Вице-президент и генеральный директор отдела разработки автомобильной электроники | Analog Devices | Analog Devices

Because battery packs account for more than 30% of an electric vehicle’s sticker price, battery manufacturers, carmakers, regulators and even insurance companies have a clear economic and environmental incentive to nurture a secondary market. The most direct path lies in energy storage system (ESS) applications, where serviceable cells within a used battery pack can be re-purposed within a renewable energy grid to store excess power generated by wind, solar, hydroelectric, or geothermal plants. EV batteries can also be disassembled into smaller battery modules for less demanding uses such as power tools, forklifts, or electric scooters.

Image of full life cycle for EV battery from first life through recycling
EV battery life cycle—from manufacturing to 1st Life to 2nd Life, through recycling.

The nascent second-life battery market is not without its technology, quality-control, and implementation hurdles. Today’s EV batteries, for example, use electrical harnesses that enable the monitoring of battery state-of-charge. These, and other harnesses, must be removed before the battery can be redeployed, which adds cost and design complexity. As part of a growing trend in product design that incorporates end-of-life disassembly, designers can expand upon hardwired battery monitoring systems (BMS) with wireless BMS (wBMS) technology. Not only does wireless BMS reduce size, weight, and material costs in electric vehicles, it enables the safer and more scalable process of robotic disassembly and assembly of battery packs.

Portrait image of Roger Keen
“Removing the wire harness in wBMS opens up a ton of possibilities that simply weren’t available with the prior constraints of a battery harness. For example, removing the harness enables robotic assembly and disassembly of battery packs, improving efficiency in transitioning batteries into second-life applications.”

Роджер Кин

Генеральный директор отдела разработки продуктов для электромобилей | Analog Devices

BATTERY SECOND LIFE: ADDING YEARS TO ELECTRIC VEHICLE BATTERIES

By some estimates, second-life battery applications could add another 6 to 30 useful years to a battery’s life. But ultimately, that lifespan will be determined by how well the battery was treated during its primary use. To that end, wireless battery management systems (wBMS) technology has other important benefits given its ability to collect battery data in a contactless way across the battery’s lifecycle. This valuable data can be consolidated in the cloud and tied back to the battery’s secure identity.

 

6-30 YEARS
ADDITIONAL BATTERY LIFE POST-EV USAGE

How Long Will My EV Battery Last? (and 3 Tips to Help it Last Longer) – Union of Concerned Scientists (ucsusa.org)

Before a battery is repurposed, the seller can use that data to generate a state-of-health history: how many times did the EV owner completely or partially charge and discharge the battery? Was the EV ever in an accident? What do the vehicle’s maintenance records indicate? What’s more, such granular health monitoring can also be applied in places where data has been logistically impossible to collect: was the new or second life battery stored properly in the warehouse? Did anything happen to it during transportation?

All batteries are eventually broken down and recycled after being used and reused. Wireless BMS technology enables contactless inventory characterization at scale to aid in rapid reuse or recycle decision making. Once a decision is made on reuse vs. recycle, using state-of-health data (enabled by techniques such as wireless BMS), buyers and sellers can build a standardized level of trust and fairly assess the battery’s value before arriving at a sale price. The industry may even evolve a ratings standard that distinguishes a lightly used, AAA-rated battery from one that was poorly maintained.

Mike Kultgen
“For EVs, the central element is, of course, the battery. Battery management systems (BMS) are critical to maximizing battery reliability and lifetime to ease EV adoption barriers. The better the BMS accuracy, the better you can understand the state of the battery cell, the more capacity you can extract out of it … the more reliable the battery pack will operate.”

Майк Култген

Генеральный директор отдела разработки систем управления батареями, ADI | Analog Devices

A SUSTAINABLE NEW WORLD AWAITS ELECTRIC VEHICLE BATTERIES

The electric vehicle world is growing exponentially and batteries will play a key role in contributing to a more environmentally friendly mode of transportation. While the second-life battery reuse sector is a high value, intermediary step before recycling, its success is highly dependent on treating the battery’s initial and follow-on applications holistically. Battery and BMS design must be conducted with the entire useful life of the battery in mind. This may require a shift in mindset for battery suppliers and automotive manufacturers, but over the long term they can play an important role in creating an environmentally sustainable and economically viable new market channel.

Image shows solar energy being stored in second life battery containers and electric energy transferred to a power grid

Beyond this, the automotive industry is instituting numerous environmental and socially relevant initiatives which will pay dividends now and into the future. Included among these are eliminating cobalt in battery chemistries, due to controversial mining practices; and reducing emissions from automotive material production like aluminum, plastics, etc.—all in hopes of achieving a zero-carbon car.*

ADI is also doing its part with aggressive environmental sustainability goals including net zero emissions on or before 2050, carbon neutrality by 2030, reducing by half our CO2 and CO2e emissions, water usage at all our facilities by 2030, and more.

So, while we’ll all be tooling around in an EV shortly, feeling good about helping save the environment, we can take even more pleasure in knowing that the EV battery underneath us will live on in second life, in a future car, an energy storage system, or another application.