Recycling Programs Stay on Ice as EV Batteries Outlast Predictions

As more territories pledge to transition their road transport systems to electric vehicles and automakers invest billions of dollars into developing new EVs, one question has been on many people’s minds. What will we do with all these electric vehicle batteries when they reach the end of their lives? The answer has been recycling programs that could recover up to 90% of an EV battery cell for commercial activity once its life on the road was over.

However, a recent report from Forbes has revealed that EV batteries are so long-lasting that they are delaying battery recycling programs. The idea would be that once an electric vehicle is 10 years old, its battery pack would be removed and shipped off for recycling. But according to Forbes, most EV batteries have outlasted predictions of their feasible lifetimes, resulting in relatively slow recycling programs.

Nissan UK managing director Nic Thomas says that although the automaker has been selling electric vehicles for a dozen years, nearly all of the EV batteries it has ever made are still in electric cars. For quite a while, the fear was that landfills would soon be filled with millions of spent and toxic electric vehicle batteries as the industry matured. But more than a decade after the first electric vehicles hit the road, there are barely any used EV batteries available for recycling.

Thomas states that Nissan still hasn’t been able to recycle EV batteries into something else because it hasn’t received a significant stock of used batteries. In fact, the situation is the total opposite of what people were afraid of in the early days of the EV industry: that EV batteries were short lived and would run out after a short time.

The reality is that most electric vehicle batteries will outlive the cars in which they were installed and can even live on as stationary power storage solutions before they have to be recycled. Thomas says that after 15 to 20 years on the road, a typical EV battery will have an up to 70% of its capacity left, which is more than enough for a second life before recycling becomes necessary.

Nissan, which has been selling the Nissan Leaf for more than a decade, has received only a handful of Leaf batteries for recycling, usually after warranty problems or from crashed cars. These battery packs have been sent to the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam to provide back-up power.

This real-world data indicates that EV and battery pack makers such as Kandi Technologies Group Inc. (NASDAQ: KNDI) are doing a much better job than initially thought, which is why battery recycling facilities are finding it hard to get ample supplies of old batteries to process into new products.

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