An independent report by Germany’s independent and non-profit Oeko-Institut has urged the European Union that, when it comes to lithium batteries, to follow the example set by the lead-acid industry in recycling batteries to create a “sustainable” system for conserving raw materials and reusing EV batteries for energy storage.
But the report— ‘Ensuring a Sustainable Supply of Raw Materials for Electric Vehicles’— shows EU leaders that China is already “well ahead” in having a “transparent” structure that efficiently regulates the use of materials in the electro-mobility sector, the Institute said.
The report will make uncomfortable reading for the European Commission (EC), which has turned its back on the lead-acid industry and is pumping millions of euros into forging an alliance of ‘green’ battery makers— which could spark a trade war with China!
The recommendation to draw on the recycling experience of the lead industry is among those made by the Institute— which works to preserve the environment and natural resources— and is reviewing the EU’s existing Batteries Directive on behalf of the EC.
There is “currently no real provision for lithium recycling” in Europe, according to the Institute, which said it would be “essential to ensure that batteries are collected and recycled as efficiently as possible” in Europe and worldwide.
“In this regard, we can take a cue from existing recycling systems for lead-acid batteries,” the Institute’s report said. “Lead from these batteries has one of the highest recovery rates worldwide.”
According to the Institute, new rules recently introduced by China on the disposal of EV batteries mean the EU “needs to set its own ambitious standards for the management of these valuable resources— and must do so as a matter of urgency”.
“This must include ambitious goals for the collection, reuse and recycling of used traction batteries and specific targets for the recovery of key strategic raw materials such as lithium, cobalt and nickel,” the Institute said.
There is a “continued and urgent need” in the EU for regulations on the reuse of retired EV batteries, “for example as stationary batteries to store solar-generated electricity”, the Institute said.
For batteries’ “safe and efficient conversion, exacting and standardised testing and work processes are required in order to avoid potential hazards such as fire risks, accidental release of hazardous substances or fatal electric shocks— all of which can occur if conversion is performed incorrectly.”
The report said: “As traditional lead-acid battery recycling programmes have shown, putting the right systems in place will allow us to collect a significant proportion of EV batteries. We recommend that a global recycling system be established on the back of this collection network by 2030. In the key EV markets of China, Europe and North America, the necessary infrastructure should be put in place by the middle of the coming decade.”
Dr Matthias Buchert, head of the Oeko-Institut’s resources & transport division, said: “The EU must be careful not to fall behind.” He said legislators “must regulate cost factors all along the recycling chain”.
“Our research shows that we should not expect the revenue from the recovery of secondary raw materials to cover the costs of collection, safe transport and recycling,” Buchert said.
The Spring issue of BEST Magazine, out this week, includes a special feature about Europe’s plans to create a ‘green’ battery industry— which could see EU chiefs blocking Asian EV batteries and related imports that are ‘inferior’ to those planned for production in the EU.
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