The industry has entered a new age of electronic propulsion and it is vital to know how to handle these vehicles safely and correctly. Let us take a look at the journey of an Electric Vehicle (EV) battery once it has reached the end of its life, including the process of dismantling, recycling and re-use.
Removal at an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF)
Where the end-of-life vehicles are seen by an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF), the typical route is for the battery to be removed from the vehicle at the site where it is received. For EV batteries that are received at body shops there is a legal obligation for VMs to ensure batteries are handled and recycled properly.
There is a risk in the manual handling of batteries as some weigh more than 700kg, are unwieldy and could lead to injury if the correct lifting equipment is not used.
Transportation of batteries
Batteries are collected and transported to authorised dismantlers or VMs. Provided they are handled with care and not damaged, batteries are safe to be transported.
Some batteries received are damaged and must be treated with extreme caution as there is potential for it to combust without warning.
There are a variety of specialist transportation boxes that are designed to contain or counteract a battery if it combusts during transport. However, batteries in this state remain a serious problem and require even more careful handling.
During dismantling the battery is taken apart. High voltage engineers separate the batteries into recoverable sections under safe insulated conditions.
A battery consists of many different materials as well as the modules that contain the cells, such as circuit boards, plastics and thick metal current collectors.
EV batteries are high voltage with some upwards of 800V. The risk of electrocution and instant death is very real.
End-of-life recycling is essentially treating the battery’s wastes to extract the metal within. The table shows how each of the materials in a battery can be recycled.
There are currently no recycling operations in the UK, and only a very small number of operators exist who can dismantle batteries to prepare them for recycling.
Batteries that do inadvertently reach landfill may leak hazardous chemicals that could leach through into the ground or vent into the air, causing damage to the environment.
Many batteries that are removed from an end-of-life vehicle still contains 80% or even 90% of their original capacity. They are well suited for power storage even after their life in an EV has come to an end.
Approaches to repurposing batteries include reusing battery packs as they are without any modifications, dismantling the packs to remove the modules and then use the modules to build up new packs of a different design, or dismantle two or more the same pack and use the best modules to build a new refurbished pack.
50% The percentage of recycling that needs to happen for all battery types from the smallest AAA battery to the largest EV cell.
26 046 tonnes of portable batteries were placed in the UK market in 2019
162% The amount of online electric car queries rose after the government proposed to halt petrol and diesel sales by 2035.
25 000 to 75 000; The annual sales rise of plug-in hybrid and full EVs from 2015 to 2019 with very few seen as yet as their true end of life.