Whilst at the Vehicle Recycling International Summit in Munich at the end of October, ATF Professional listened to a variety of presentations, one of which was given by Jan Tytgat, Director of Government Affairs EU-Benelux, Umicore. The talk was entitled ‘EV Battery Recycling: Technology Challenges and Regulatory Hurdles’. After his presentation, a Roundtable discussion ensued, Jan mentioned some key points regarding not just the fears surrounding EV battery recycling but how the lifecycle of a vehicle could decrease by half; items we wanted to highlight to help better understand how these will affect the vehicle dismantling industry.
Of interest was a statement that we should not be frightened of embracing the EV battery and how we faced similar when cars were first introduced and people ran flags before them to warn others of their approach. He said this in the context of transport regulation of ‘retired’ and ‘end-of-life’ batteries. Everyone with a driving license can transport batteries in an EV. But once those batteries are removed and sent for refurbishment or recycling, they are considered as ‘dangerous’ and you need special ADR drivers license. In some member states, they are considered as ‘hazardous waste’, requiring notification and permits of country of sender, receiver and transit countries. This is not normal and hankers for the breakthrough of a technology we need for our energy transition. We should not be afraid of it, but manage the risks.
Something else that came up was how the lifecycle of a car could alter from 16 to 8 years, which if true, would have a great impact on the vehicle dismantling industry. He pointed out that this was an idea which has come from a preceding idea: that we should learn to use materials more intensively. He went on to give a figure that today, a car is used only about 5% of the time (15000 km/year @ 50 km/h = 300 hours = 14 days). If we are to believe how cars are to be used in the future, for example, if we shared cars resulting in double average mileage, we could have the same mobility with only half of the tonnage of materials in the streets and along the curbsides. This would NOT be a threat to car manufacturers or material suppliers, as the lifetime would be shorter (from 16 years today to 8 years in future). The total amount of cars to produce and to recycle would not increase, but they would rotate faster. New technologies could be introduced faster and the material not in an idle stock in the society could be used for other, more useful applications.
Jan called for less legislation if it slows down innovation and productivity. He said that we need regulation to overcome the ‘activation energy’ that is needed to move away from a non-optimal situation of today towards a better situation in the future. For example, we all know that recycling is better than dumping, but we need incentives for the effort of collection, to develop appropriate technologies, to de-risk the investments in new business activities etc. In such cases, regulation can be a tool to support the transition – ‘incentives = carrot, regulation = stick’.
Jan raised some interesting points during this discussion, the last proving most agreeable to those who were in attendance.
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