Essential information for end of life vehicle dismantling, depollution and recycling

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Are we ready for end of life electric vehicle batteries?

With the government’s plan to ban new conventional petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, there is an ever-increasing demand for electric vehicles. Jacqui Murray, Deputy Challenge Director at Faraday Battery Challenge tells us about what they are doing to promote the development of electric vehicle batteries in order to be ready.

 

Are we ready for end of life Electric Vehicle batteries f one
Jacqui Murray

Transport is in the middle of a revolution. Understanding automotive Li-Ion recycling and how the UK responds is why I very much welcome the WMG, at the University of Warwick report published on Monday1. The UK is the second-largest vehicle market in Europe. With the average weight of the battery packs in full battery electric vehicles (BEVs) being upwards of 350kgs2, it can be predicted that there will be an estimated 339,000 tonnes of batteries reaching end of life by 2040.  

For the past 3 years, the now £318m Faraday Battery Challenge has been promoting the development of battery technologies that are cost-effective, high-performing, long-lasting, safe, low-weight and recyclable. On the 14th September 2020, the UK Government announced an additional £44m extending the Challenge until 20223.  

This transformation is not only driven by climate change and air quality regulations, but also by consumers. COVID-19 has seen us change our habits and view of transport and how we travel to work. Electric vehicle sales have jumped up during lockdown4. This may well reverse over the next few months, as companies discount their stocks of petrol and diesel engine vehicles, but forecasts are for significant continued growth. The electric vehicle battery opportunity alone has been estimated to be around £12 billion5 in the UK by 2025.

All this means major change. The UK needs manufacturing of new technology batteries at scale here in the UK, a green electricity grid and infrastructure that can charge all these vehicles. These are underway, but we also need the logistics and capital investments in recycling that enable vehicles coming to their end of life to be recycled. 

The scale of the challenge

Lithium-ion batteries contain difficult to source and valuable metals such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, aluminium and copper.  By 2040, the UK is estimated to require 140GWh worth of cell production capability6, representing 567,000 tonnes of cell production7, requiring 131,000 tonnes of cathode metals. And it is the metals that are the valuable prize. There is a good chance that recycling could supply over 20% of this demand if we estimate a 60% recycling rate and 40% reuse or remanufacture1

It is important that the scale of the benefit to the carbon or ecological footprint of recycling vs. extraction of raw materials. The Faraday Institution’s Relib project team outline the significant comparative benefits of recycling versus extraction of lithium from either spodumene ore or mineral-rich brine in the Nature p.  

A changing vehicle business model

Engines normally make up around a third of the cost of a car, whereas a battery pack makes up nearly two-thirds of the cost. We are seeing UK-based automotive companies exporting end of life lithium-ion battery packs to Europe and paying between £3 and £8 per kg for recycling8, only then to repurchase these same metals back for production. These costs are included in the price of new electric vehicles, something all UK car producers would love to see reduce significantly for consumers.  

The average value of an end-of-life battery pack placed on the market between 2015 and 2018 was £3.3/kg for BEV packs and £2.2/kg for PHEV packs.  The majority of the value is in the cells and weights are increasing.

Are we ready for end of life Electric Vehicle batteries p one

Fig 1. Cell values of common electric vehicle battery packs6

 

Are we ready for end of life Electric Vehicle batteries p two

Fig 2. Trend in electrified vehicle battery mass since 2015

 
An evolving technology landscape

To compound this complexity, one size or chemistry battery doesn’t fit all applications or sectors. A host of battery technologies are being developed to enable an electrified future, improving the battery cell and pack performance, cost and impact.  Battery manufacturers are developing cell chemistries to meet customer requirements. The material value of these cells can differ significantly depending on the chemistry.

Are we ready for end of life Electric Vehicle batteries p three

Fig 3. Material value of cells for different chemistries6

 
Working together

Complex and challenging problems need a team approach. If there was ever a time for a Team UK approach – it is right now in the electric vehicle space. The Faraday Battery Challenge is working across government, academia and industry to better connect the scientists, industry experts, projects, funds and investment to build future solutions in the UK. 

The Faraday Battery Challenge itself invests in research and innovation projects and new facilities to scale-up and advance the production, use and recycling of batteries. We have over £10m of collaborative R&D projects already underway – from the ABLE feasibility study that is investigating ‘re-juicing’, reusing and recycling end-of-life (EOL) batteries through to the BATREV Project which is determining how robots could be used as a de-risking process to protect people from the risks of disassembly of high voltage batteries. 

Over the past couple of years, the Faraday Institution has developed into is the UK’s independent institute for electrochemical energy storage research, skills development and market analysis. Their £10m ReLib Project aims to establish the technological, economic and legal infrastructure to make the recycling of Li-Ion batteries as close to 100% as possible.   

The final pillar of the Challenge is the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre – the first of its kind in the UK and Europe. It opens later in 2020 and allows companies to quickly develop their capabilities to manufacture batteries and get them to market, scale-up and go global.

How can I get more involved? 

Firstly, I’d like to invite readers to our briefing event on Monday 28th September and get an update on a new £10m funding competition which may be of interest to businesses of all sizes (micro, SME and large), academics, RTOs and local authorities. Recycling is in scope and you’ll get to meet people in the battery-related space across a wide range of sectors such as rail, marine, aerospace, defence, aviation, automotive and off highway? Sign up here

In the morning before the briefing, the Cross-Sector Battery Systems Innovation Network Launch is taking place. This group is developing a community which will be sharing knowledge around the challenges and opportunities associated with the small-series, niche or otherwise specialist batteries and energy storage systems for mobile and stationary systems. Second-life and recycling is of great interest to them too. 

Over the past 3 years, it has been hard at times to get to grips with the developing technology. The Faraday Institution publishes regular updates for you to follow. Find out what their researcher’s predictions for future cathode chemistries here and their view on the importance of coherent regulatory and policy strategies for the recycling of EV batteries here

You can also keep an eye on my Twitter (@JacquiMurray25) or my LinkedIn account as I share frequently, and there are also other opportunities to get involved such as developing design guides and codes of practice with the British Standards Institute along with other related funding opportunities.

You can contact Dr Anwar Sattar at WMG, at the University of Warwick directly for further information on the report or to discuss the latest on battery recycling at anwar.sattar@warwick.ac.uk  

1WMG, at the University of Warwick Report https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/report_fears_uk; A. Sattar et al. Automotive Lithium-ion Battery Recycling in the UK. WMG, at the University of Warwick 

2Average battery mass is 238kg per vehicle1

3https://gov.uk/government/news/government-investment-to-help-build-robots-for-nuclear-plants-and-batteries-for-electric-aeroplanes

4https://www.smmt.co.uk/vehicle-data/evs-and-afvs-registrations/

5The Advanced Propulsion Centre’s Report https://bit.ly/PassCarReportDownload

6The Faraday Institution https://faraday.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2040_Gigafactory_Report_FINAL.pdf

7Based on the Tesla 2170 format cells with 17.3Wh capacity and a mass of 70g1

8Price depends on chemistry and state of health. Damaged cells and modules cannot be transported to Europe

About Jacqui Murray

As Deputy Director of the £318m million Faraday Battery Challenge Jacqui helps lead government investment to develop batteries that are cost-effective, high-quality, durable, safe, low-weight and recyclable. Her background in environmental regulation coupled with knowledge of the steel industry provides industrial relevance in her role as a Visiting Professor (Royal Academy of Engineering) at the University of Leicester, where she enhances the engineering programme. A keen STEM ambassador, Jacqui takes an active leadership approach on diversity and inclusion throughout her work. Autocar’s Top 100 Women in Automotive based on Seniority and Influence in 2020.

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