There are plenty of viable criticisms of electric vehicles, but one of the biggest ones comes down to recycling. Sure, we can use EVs, but what do we do when their time is up? The United States and United Kingdom have both gone different routes when it comes to recycling, Reuters reports — but both are promising.
Both techniques involve retrieving parts of the battery that can be reused, which can cut down on carbon emissions and reduce the impact on the globe when it comes to mining minerals. But recycling batteries is a complex process; you can’t just blast them with high heats like you normally would when recycling metal because that destroys the valuable materials.
The United Kingdom, then, is experimenting with something called direct recycling, which uses ultrasonic waves to recycle the cathode and anode of the battery without doing any serious damage to it. The cathode powder is made of cobalt, nickel, and manganese, all of which is glued to an aluminum sheet. The anode powder is usually graphite, and it’s glued to a copper sheet.
Right now, we have to rip those materials apart to separate them, but using the sound waves can actually cut costs by 60 percent and save 100 times more battery material, Andy Abbott, professor of physical chemistry at the University of Leicester said.
In the United States, scientists are more focused on a project called ReCell. Because we don’t make our own domestic cathode, we currently have to send out our cathodes to be recycled and shipped back. So, the US is aiming to blend recycled cathode powder with new materials to stretch the use of the new materials and cut down on the costs of shipping recycled materials around the world.
The key goals for ReCell are to improve profitability when it comes to manufacturing and recycling batteries so those costs don't get transferred to consumers.