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

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Predictions for EVs entering our yards

Dr Zhangqi Wang, Junior Engineer phd. Research and Development at ACCUREC Recycling GMBH
Dr Zhangqi Wang

Dr Zhangqi Wang, Junior Engineer phd. Research and Development at ACCUREC Recycling GMBH, battery recyclers based in Germany, provided us with some interesting statistics regarding predictions of when we will be seeing EVs in our yards.

One of the most important global topics in the 21st century is to mitigate global warming by reducing anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The electrification of road transport will deliver a major reduction of anthropogenic emissions of CO2.

Market penetration of electric vehicles do reduce CO2 emission significantly when traction batteries are charged by renewable energies. However, when electric vehicles reach their end-of-life, recycling of traction Li-ion battery packs need extra labour, comparing to conventional ICE-driven vehicles. Li-ion batteries contain not only EU critical raw materials such as cobalt, graphite but also valuable metals like nickel, copper. Therefore, it is essential to estimate the quantity of traction batteries which needs to be recycled when they are in salvage yards in future.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has provided several scenarios for deployment the electric vehicles globally to 2030 as figure 1 shows:

deployment of EVs prognosis by IEA

We have considered 3 scenarios which are:

  1. The Reference Technology Scenario (RTS) which ends 56 million by 2030

  2. The Paris Declaration on COP21 which ends 115 million by 2030

  3. The 2-Degree Scenario which ends 160 million by 2030.

These scenarios all have the same reference point of 2 million EVs in 2016. Then compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of each scenario can be calculated which varies between 26.87% to 36.75%. Hereafter, those CAGRs were projected back to the European electric vehicle market and the results are shown in Table 1:

Total registrations (PH)EVs in Europe prognosis

In order to understand the corresponding batteries based on sales of electric vehicles, a case-study of electric vehicle traction batteries in 2016 were carried out. In 2016, 209 thousand EVs were sold in Europe in which 91 thousand are pure electric vehicles with the average battery capacity of 40 kWh and 118 thousand are plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with the average battery capacity of 10 kWh.

Based on the above relationship, the corresponding sale of Li-ion battery capacity can be estimated as Figure 2a. It is assumed that energy density of Li-ion battery will increase from 240 Wh/kg to 300 Wh/kg after 2020 by the development of Li-ion battery industry. As a result, battery tonnage can be calculated as Figure 2b from Figure 2a:

battery capacity sold in EU and 2b. battery tonnage sold in EU

The data in Figure 2. only shows the accumulated battery capacity and tonnage which will be put on European market. However, for a recycler it is essential to know when will these batteries reach their end-of-life and become waste which needs to be recycled. Since the electric vehicle market is still in its initial state and vehicles are still in use, there is not sufficient data available in order to give a scientific estimation regarding the lifetime of electric vehicle battery pack. A very general and rough estimation of the battery pack lifetime were made in table 2:

 battery pack lifetime estimation

According to the new batteries put on the market  each year and the lifetime estimation from table 2, it is then possible to predict end-of-life battery tonnage from electric vehicles as Figure 3 shows:

expected annual battery tonnage ready for recycling in EU

The electrification of road transport indeed help mitigate global warming by reducing anthropogenic emissions of CO2. However, it requires a tremendous amount of Li-ion batteries to support this business model. The whole value chain of the Li-ion battery industry from raw material, battery manufacturing, battery lifetime until end-of-life recycling also have to be decarbonised in order make a real effort to reduce anthropogenic emissions of CO2. In the end, when those vehicles and traction batteries reach their end-of-life, they have to be treated in authorised treatment facilities (ATFs) properly to minimise the environmental impact and contribute to the circular economy.

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Adam Hewitt

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