Let's Talk About What Happens to Old Electric Car Batteries

Illustration for article titled Let's Talk About What Happens to Old Electric Car Batteries
Photo: Eugene Hoshiko (AP)

It might not be the first thing you think of, but it’s definitely a question that has entered the minds of many people looking at the electric car world: what actually happens to all those old car batteries when you can’t use them anymore? It’s not something we’ve had to worry about for our IC cars, but EVs? They’re a whole different story.


Engineering Explained on YouTube has teamed up with Formula E to debunk some of the big myths and clear the air regarding electric batteries. Since a lot of lithium batteries end up in the trash and subsequently in landfills, it’s pretty common to find people who think car batteries have the same problem. But, as you’ll learn, that’s definitely not the case.

The video gets down into some really awesome detail about what happens to an EV’s battery when you swap it out. At its most basic, that includes reusing some of the battery’s components in other things (like lights), energy storage devices for homes, and recycling the batteries for potential re-use in other battery cells.

And it also explains how a series like Formula E is going to tackle the battery problem. They, too, plan on reusing their batteries—in fact, each car only gets one battery for the whole season, which is re-charged and re-used at every subsequent race. Which is pretty awesome, considering the strain that can be put on them during competition.

The video explains it better than I could—so I’ll let them talk it out. But it’s definitely an interesting (and important) aspect of a future that could be more electric.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.



I wonder at what point the crossover will be where it’s cheaper to buy a used electric car and remove the battery than it is to buy a powerwall.

You can get a used Leaf for about $5k and those are roughly double the capacity of the Powerwall 2, so maybe we’re already there... I may have to look into this to supplement my solar array for natural disasters and eliminating the $20-40/mo I end up paying the utility company for night power usage.