Along with the trend of electric travel, a series of high-performance electric vehicles have been put on the market. Now, it's time to think about how lithium batteries should be used when these cars are accidents or scrapped.
A few days ago, there was a video on the YouTube website called "New Method for Battery Recycling of Electric Vehicles". In the video, people saw that the jagged metal roller slammed, swallowed the battery module, then crushed the battery frame, tearing off the silver foil of the lithium polymer battery, and finally, everything was Crushed into pieces and turned into fine powder. These fine powders are then placed in an acid solution to form salts and oxides that can be used to make new batteries.
This process seems impossible because the battery is flammable and requires only a little voltage, a little spark, and the flame will rise. Therefore, the German company Duesselfeld completely discharged the battery and filled the closed grinder with nitrogen. The flammable electrolyte liquid is evaporated and pumped out, followed by precipitation of the powder. In this way, 96% of the materials in the battery can be recycled.
Along with the trend of electric travel, a series of high-performance electric vehicles have been put on the market. Now, it's time to think about how to deal with batteries when these cars have an accident or are scrapped. Since March 2019, Rolf Widmer, a researcher at the National Federal Laboratories in Switzerland, and his colleagues have been working with the Automotive Recycling Foundation on related projects. They analyze the car recycling system, study the cost and ecological footprint, and perform model calculations to estimate the number of old batteries in the future. Finally, propose appropriate strategies.
Cold cycle or thermal cycle?
Most lithium-ion batteries do not use the cold-crush method like the Duesefeld company, but instead heat it in the oven before grinding. The market leader in this regard is Umicore in Belgium. During thermal cycling, the battery's thin copper foil melts, along with cobalt and nickel, to form a recyclable alloy. However, the lithium, graphite, liquid electrolyte and aluminum of the battery burn to become slag.
In addition to heat recovery and cold crushing of inert gases, there are other automatic decomposition methods. In order to prevent fires, Swiss professional battery recycling company Batrec Industrie AG shattered some batteries in a humid environment. Empa experts will compare all methods.
Finding the best recycling system requires not only the smashing problem but also the supply chain. Daniel Christen, managing director of the Swiss Automobile Recycling Foundation, said: "Car batteries damaged in the event of an accident may suddenly burn. These batteries can only be transported as dangerous goods in special containers." This is expensive and time consuming. . Christen is looking for a cheaper solution to "disarm" the battery and deliver it to the processing company. There are currently some methods: for example, the Swiss company Blubox uses the "Firebox" produced by the Dutch manufacturer. This is a freight container with a built-in fire suppression system that can hold a full vehicle or a larger "disassembled" battery.
Finally, freight forwarders and car recyclers must be trained to avoid injury when recycling scrapped electric vehicles. There is already a related database that provides information for rescuers. Firefighters can enter the license plate number on the computer to identify the electric vehicle on site. How to disconnect the battery will appear on the tablet. With the same information, it is also possible to safely disassemble an electric car.
Many problems remain to be solved
There are still many issues to be resolved before the recycling system is established. How will the used battery market develop? In the future, it is worthwhile to repair used batteries with new battery components and put them back on the market, just like refurbished engines or gearboxes. In the "second life", will the old car battery become a fixed solar storage unit? How long does it take for a retired battery to enter the recycling company? Do you need to improve recycling capacity, or will automakers collect and recycle most of their batteries?
This will depend to a large extent on the market price of raw materials such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite. At the same time, depending on the price and performance of the new battery and the political environment, the latter can set the framework conditions and issue regulations.