The Challenge of Scrapping Electric Cars
Soon enough scrap yards will face the challenge of breaking down electric cars. With climate change a very real threat to the world electric powered vehicles are on the rise and soon enough recycling them will be necessary. At the moment there are some challenges we face to recycle electric cars mostly centred on the lithium batteries that power electric vehicles.
What was once a 2 minute job to remove a car battery now this is quite a challenge and much more complicated. There could be a lot of left over energy in the the large lithium batteries and great care needs to be taken as it is possibly fatal to the technician disassembling the battery.
Manufacturers also fit the large batteries in a completely different way with sealants and adhesives making for very difficult battery removal. . . but that’s not all yet . . . the batteries are huge and hard to remove without the right equipment.
Electric vehicle batteries can also cause other health concerns like breathing difficulties and respiratory damage due to the hydrogen fluoride contained within. processes need to improve and modernise to be able to break these vehicles safely for recycling.
Battery Storage and Final Disposal
There is no guidance at the moment on storage and disposal of lithium ion batteries believe it or not beyond normal health and safety guidelines, however you must be qualified to handle this type of battery, lithium poses a fire risk, explosive risk and also the release of toxic gases.
When lithium batteries catch fire this isn’t just any regular fire classed as a “metal fire” these are difficult to deal with, although water can be used
dowsing with a foam extinguisher, CO2, ABC dry chemical, powdered graphite, copper powder or soda (sodium carbonate) extinguisher is more effective. We can see now these batteries cant just build up in landfill or we face ground fires that will be very difficult to deal with. A large ground fire of Lithium Ion batteries will also release toxic gases hazardous to the local environment.
We need to get better at processing large vehicle batteries, this is the main issue when recycling electric vehicles. There are many useful components that are valuable including, nickel, silver, cobalt. Recycling reduces the need to mine for new materials so recycling plays an important part in reducing environmental damage and climate change.
We are hoping that vehicle manufacturers start to think more about how end of life vehicles might be recycled and design vehicles in the future that are more easily recyclable. Designing for recycling is the future we all need.