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T&E publishes 'Blueprint for battery regulations in Europe'

Fri 22 November 2019 | Back to news list

Brussels-based NGO, Transport & Environment (T&E), has published a 'Blueprint for battery regulations in Europe' which discusses the key areas to be addressed to ensure battery sustainability and the lowest life cycle impacts. Meanwhile, a Birmingham University study, published in Nature focuses on the recycling of lithium-ion batteries in the UK.

T&E's report says that the current policy framework for batteries pre-dates the electric car revolution and is completely out of date as a result. It says that the EU's ongoing review of policy options for batteries provides an opportunity to smart regulations to underpin the development of a green, world-leading and ethical battery supply chain in Europe.

The report includes recommendations for sustainable battery manufacturing (which currently account for around 40% of an electric vehicle's life-cycle emissions); sustainable design; re-use and recycling. It also covers what it describes as 'responsible sourcing of raw materials globally.

Meanwhile a new study, published in Nature, led by researchers at the University of Birmingham has concluded that UK governments and industry must develop a recycling infrastructure for EV batteries. The researchers say that one million EVs sold in 2017 alone will result in 250,000 metric tons of unprocessed waste once these vehicles reach the end of their lives.

The paper identified five key challenges that policymakers and engineers will face in battery recycling:

  • Identifying second-use applications
  • Developing rapid repair and recycling methods
  • Improving diagnostics
  • Optimizing designs
  • Designing new stabilization processes

The demand for lithium-ion batteries continues to grow and analysis by the Faraday Institution says that by 2040, the UK will need to produce the output equivalent to the production from eight gigafactories to service the demand.

Gavin Harper, Faraday Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham and lead author of the paper, said (quoted in ChargedEVs): “To recycle Li-ion batteries efficiently, they must be disassembled and the resulting waste streams separated. As well as Lithiium, these batteries contain a number of other valuable metals, such as cobalt, nickel and manganese, and there is the potential to improve the processes which are currently used to recover these for reuse.”

Andrew Abbott, a Professor at the University of Leicester and co-author of the paper, said: “Landfill is clearly not an option for this amount of waste. Finding ways to recycle EV batteries will not only avoid a huge burden on landfill, it will also help us secure the supply of critical materials, such as cobalt and lithium, that surely hold the key to a sustainable automotive industry.”

Commenting on the reports, LowCVP's Managing Director, Andy Eastlake said: "It's vital that we get to grips with all the implications; both the huge benefits and any potential issues arising from the growth of electric vehicles and, in particular, that we design effective policies and regulations for the production, use and disposal - or re-use - of their batteries.

"The LowCVP is focused on this issue - in fact we've just held a workshop jointly with the APC focusing on how to embed life cycle CO2 measures further into auto manufacturing and future vehicles policy.

"We will be working with a wide range of other stakeholders to further develop the evidence-base and provide options for a fully sustainable - net zero-compliant - EV-focused motor industry."

Related news:  Car maker Volvo has just announced  that it will become the first car maker to implement global traceability of cobalt used in its batteries by applying blockchain technology. Volvo says that traceability of raw materials used in the production of lithium-ion batteries, such as cobalt, is one of the main sustainability challenges faced by car makers. 

Blockchain technology, which establishes a transparent and reliable shared data network, significantly boosts transparency of the raw material supply chain because the information about the material’s origin cannot be changed undetected.

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