Transport accounts for one-third of all emissions in the United Kingdom. Electric vehicles are seen as the key to resolving this, with the European Union requiring at least 30 million electric vehicles by 2030 to meet climate targets.
However, long after the cars are off the road, the efficient recycling of the lithium-ion batteries that power them is still regulated.
“If we waited to set up a recycling industry and get it ready for use, they wouldn’t have anything to recycle until cars reach the end of their life,” Dan Reed, head of the ReLiB team told us. the University of Birmingham.
The ReLiB team is working on a new method to separate and recover materials in these batteries.
“The main problem in the battery is cobalt, because it is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Reed added.
“And there are some ethical issues about mining and where it comes from and processing it… we also have manganese and nickel, which are a little more readily available, but still need to be mined.”
Elsewhere, researchers are looking at a battery design that could eliminate the need for cobalt and nickel, but the ReLiB team is focused on working out the most efficient, green and cost-effective way to disassemble the variety of battery packs currently being made.
One way they do this is by shredding existing batteries and then separating the components, which allows them to use 90 percent of the material after the shredded components go through a chemical separation process.
Other people use a furnace to do the same thing, but that only recovers about 70 percent of the metals.
But according to Reed, the group needs support from governments to make these processes cost-effective.