Car batteries actually have the highest recycling rate of any waste product in the world. Since they are, effecively, blocks of valuable metals, it isn't hard to get someone to pay for them once they stop holding a charge. However, while that easily applies for lead-acid and nickel batteries currently being used in traditional and hybrid vehicles, it's not as simple for lithium ion batteries.
Lithium ion batteries just don't have much in them that is economically useful. Currently, lithium carbonate is pretty cheap stuff, and it just isn't economically viable to recover it from batteries. Of course, thtoxcoat could easily change. As more and more batteries are produced, the world's current capacity for lithium could easily be strained.
Additionally, from an environmental perspective, it would be really bad news to have a new kind of battery that no one wants to recycle. Even if it isn't economically viable, Li-ion batteries contain all kinds of weird stuff that we don't want leaching into the ground water.
Those are the two reasons why Toxco, a company that already recycles nickel and lead batteries, is getting into the Li-ion game. And, also, why the DOE just gave Toxco a $9.5M grant to develop lithium battery recycling technology.
Toxco has been recycling small lithium ion batteries for more than a decade already, but new chemistries and the possible bulk of vehicle batteries is requiring them to re-focus on lithium. Hopefully, recycling Li-ion batteries will soon be just as easy as recycling any other kind of car battery. If not, it will be harder to sell buyers on the "green" part of electric vehicles.
One thing I won't say is that we're just "trading one unstable fuel for another" and that soon we'll be dependant on unbalanced countries for our lithium. Lithium is not a fuel, it's way of storing power. It is not used up by car batteries and there is plenty of it in the world. Don't start worrying that lithium is the next crude oil, it's not, especially if we can get good recycling technology going.
written by Daniel Kinsbursky, August 18, 2009
written by Anthony, August 18, 2009
written by Ghislain, August 20, 2009
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