EV Batteries Could Soon Be Made from Used Tires

Electric vehicle batteries will be key to the United States and other nations, electrifying transportation sectors and cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the robust industry before climate change causes irreparable damage to the ecosystem. The batteries produce zero emissions and are powered by electricity rather than fossil fuels, making them the perfect energy source for alternative energy vehicles of the future.

Recent advancements by a Chilean company could significantly reduce EV battery production costs and help make electric cars more affordable. T-Phite is using a process called pyrolysis, which involves subjecting tires to extreme heat to break them into smaller molecules. According to T-Phite CEO Bernardita Diaz, these molecules then turn into carbon black, steel and pyrolytic oil.

One of the three byproducts, carbon black comprises a graphite material that has significant potential for application as a pathway for the movement of electricity within EV batteries. Imerys, a company that supplies carbon black, explains that carbon black usually occurs due to the “incomplete combustion” of heavy petroleum products such as coal tar, ethylene cracking tar and FCC tar.

While Imerys isn’t involved in T-Phite’s project, the supplier notes that carbon black has “excellent electrical conductivity” as well as high resistance to wear and tear. Diaz says producing the material from used tires will solve two issues: increasing global demand for electromobility materials and disposal of used motor-vehicle tires.

The process aids in the final disposal of waste and could satiate the surging demand for electromobility materials. Diaz adds that obtaining additional materials from other waste would result in the creation of a circular economy. With the U.S. generating around 250 million used tires every year for scrap, the new process has the potential to birth a massive segment that takes in millions of used tires every year and produces raw materials for electric-vehicle-batteries.

Less than 50% of America’s used tires are either recycled or used to develop fuels, the Federal Highway Administration says. In the absence of natural resources or a significant EV-battery-metal supply chain, recycling tires meant for scrap into EV-battery materials would allow the U.S. to build up domestic supply. This would aid the country in its efforts to decouple itself from Chinese companies and fortify its supply chain against outside pressures.

Diaz says the company’s process could surpass lithium-ion batteries and even sodium battery chemistries. The T-Phite project has already attracted substantial investor interest to help scale it up to industrial levels.

As such innovations are commercialized, they could bring down the cost of making EV batteries, which could in turn allow manufacturers such as Workhorse Group Inc. (NASDAQ: WKHS) to pass on savings to their customers.

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