Efforts to shift gears away from fossil fuels towards more sustainable electricity powered sources have produced remarkable results in the automobile industry.  

Electric vehicles (EV) are on the rise and they are here to stay. Countries like Japan are looking to phase out traditional fuel models, aiming for 100 % of Japanese manufactured automobiles to be EV by 2050.  The International Energy Association reports that based on current policy outlooks EVs (excluding two and three wheelers) will comprise 7% of all global vehicles by 2030, reaching 25 million vehicles and constituting 16% of all road vehicle sales.

However, EVs bring with them the dire issue of e-waste and new concerns about supply chain and environmental sustainability. The heart of the problem lies with the lithium-ion batteries powering EVs.  Most EV parts are reusable but estimates of lithium ion battery recycling rates hover at 5%. Compared with the recycling rate of 99% of traditional lead batteries, this statistic is less than stellar.  Lithium ion batteries are made of metals like cobalt, lithium and nickel which are costly and difficult to extract during recycling. Shortage concerns and environmental challenges additionally underpin the mining and disposal of these materials. 

All is not bleak as firms are stepping up to address this blemish on the viability of EVs as a sustainable solution to mobility. Infact, by 2030 the automotive battery capacity available for repurposing is poised to increase by 560%   according to the International Energy Association. Below are some of the trailblazers closing the loop and enabling a green circular economy of EVs.

Li-Cycle: This Canadian company is one of the biggest lithium-ion battery recyclers in North America. Through its spoke and hub system, it collects car batteries at stations called ‘spokes’ and processes them at its hub. Plastic and copper-aluminum outputs are sold to other recyclers while hydrometallurgical treatment is used to extract cobalt lithium and nickel. This allows for 95% of lithium-ion batteries to be recovered.

Gangefeng Lithium: This Chinese firm is one of the world’s largest producers of lithium for batteries and has incorporated battery recycling as a part of its model. 

Tesla, BMW and Volkswagen are amongst the other major automobile companies integrating recycling processes to close the EV battery loop. The future of the EV ecosystem is looking bright and green.