Guidance on EV propulsion battery end- of-life policies
Since 2018, the market share of battery EVs and plugin EVs has been growing substantially. In 2021, it had an average market share of 20% in the EU. While many cars have a battery capacity of 60kWh or more, there is no standard battery in EVs. Each car manufacturer has a unique design of the battery pack, which is based on a variety of intrinsic characteristics of the battery cells. This diversity in battery packs and formats makes their dismantling and recycling routes challenging to maintain material quality.
As the demand for batteries increases, more sustainable batteries are needed. There are different strategies in place to reach that goal, like research on new materials, integration of smart functionalities to increase the lifetime, and accurate, on-board diagnosis
tools for safety. As a result of these and other research actions, batteries will have a longer life cycle, become safer, and more sustainable.
Life cycle assessment approach
Examining the carbon footprint and energy consumption of lithium batteries packs should be done from a life cycle assessment approach. Manufacturing the battery cells has the most significant impact on climate change. When production volumes increase and an electricity mix with low carbon intensity is used during production, it is possible to reduce the carbon footprint of batteries by a factor of three.
To improve European resilience to supply risks of battery materials, the European Commission is focusing on three areas:
- Mining and refining domestic raw materials;
- Domestic production of batteries;
- Substitution and circularity of battery materials and components.
Repair, repurpose, and recycle
For lithium batteries different end-of-life strategies are emerging, including techniques for repair, repurpose, and recycling. Repairing a battery pack is a good strategy to prolong the useful life of such a battery, as long as proper diagnostics and safe disassembly procedures are in place. It is also worthwhile to further develop and implement predictive maintenance and self-healing properties to prolong the useful life of a car battery.
When the State-of-Health of a battery is diagnosed as too low for a mobility application, there are other options to (partly) recuperate the value of the battery. A battery that contains enough remaining capacity, for example, can be repurposed in stationary applications to bring services to the transmission and distribution operators or to private customers. When reusing is not an option, the battery should be recycled.
Battery Regulation proposal
There are several standards and regulations in place to prevent any possible failure in the usage stage of the battery. These standards and regulations are mostly related to abuse tests of EVs using Li ion batteries. In addition to this, in 2021, the Commission published a new EU Battery Regulation proposal, replacing the previous Battery Directive. The regulation has three main objectives:
- Strengthen sustainability;
- Increase the resilience and close material loops;
- Reduce environmental impacts.
To reach these objectives, the focus in the proposal is on material recovery, recycling rates, performance and durability, and the integration of the battery passport among others.
To strengthen the circularity of automotive batteries, the report presents the following recommended actions:
- Making propulsion batteries accessible for authorised repairers, increasing transparency of diagnostic information, and making batteries repairable;
- Strengthening the regulatory framework;
- Setting- up a battery passport with transparent data;
- Creating a reverse battery value-chain;
- Designing for circularity targets;
- Investing in training, education, and research.
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