Two Canadian groups are looking to find answers to questions around how end-of-life batteries from electric vehicles will be handled.
The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association (CVMA) and Call2Recycle Canada released a report that they called a primer to examine the EV battery management ecosystem, how it’s evolving and how it’s forming its own circular economy. It also includes recommendations to help facilitate the ecosystem.
“Fundamental to understanding EV batteries and their end-of-life is the fact that most EV batteries weigh hundreds of kilograms, require specialized tools and training to be removed from a vehicle, and are prohibited from being disposed of in landfills under existing federal and provincial regulations,” the executive summary of Electric Vehicle Battery Management at End-of-Vehicle Life noted. “EV batteries are not like other consumer batteries or electronics and require different policies and programs to manage them.”
It also pointed out that EV batteries last between 15 and 18 years (the average age of vehicles in North America is about 12 years). The report also said that batteries can be repurposed for non-automotive uses and could last up to another decade before being sent for recycling.
“As a result, there are different management options for EV batteries than the traditional hierarchy of reduce, reuse, and recycle,” the report said.
It pointed to a ‘5R’ model to represent the number of pathways for an EV battery: Repair, remanufacturing, resale as is, repurposing and recycling.
“The journey for each individual battery can be quite different as the pathways are not necessarily sequential,” the report said. “Some pathways can be repeated while others skipped entirely. Importantly, these pathways are already developing, driven by for-profit market forces and various vehicle manufacturer’s sustainability goals.”
At the end of the day, all paths eventually lead to recycling, allowing materials such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, graphite, copper and aluminum to be recycled.
“Knowing the potential management options for each battery provides insight into the evolving ecosystem for EV batteries and the flow of batteries today depending on where and when they are removed from the vehicle,” the report said. “Some pathways are quite developed already, while others are in their infancy, with all pathways leading to recycling.”
It made eight recommendations to create a circular economy for EV batteries:
Develop one national EV battery end-of-vehicle life management policy to be adopted across all Canadian jurisdictions and aligned where possible on a continental basis.
Ensure all policies impacting EV batteries support their entire useful life.
Review and amend current regulations, including the applicable transportation and waste management regulations, to remove barriers and facilitate EV battery movement across provinces/territories, states and within North America.
Review and assess storage requirements to support EV battery management while minimizing risk to human health, the environment, and property.
Assess and support information sharing between EV battery stakeholders working within the EV battery management ecosystem, that will support effective and environmentally sound management of the batteries along the five pathways.
Support initiatives under development by OEMs and their industry partners that address batteries at risk of falling outside of the developing collection and management pathways, thus ensuring they are appropriately handled at end-of-vehicle life.