An article from Vox piqued my interest. Namely, with the thought that supposed “green” vehicles must be green from start to finish. While an electric vehicle runs, it doesn’t emit any greenhouse gas, but during its production, it will, at least that was the thought process and the argument against EV production back then. 

With a ton of companies looking to field EVs in the next few years, looking into battery recycling might be the next big step would be to exhaust all sources, though there are hurdles that the process must overcome first. Companies like ReLieVe are already acting in Europe, and Li-Cycle's doing something closer to home. 

The notion might change in the future for the US, as more companies are coming up with ways how to recycle batteries like Li-Cycle, a Toronto-based firm that Vox covered in their article. Li-Cycle breaks down batteries into a “black mass” that is useless without further processing. Once processed, however, the mass could be remanufactured into usable batteries that both automotive and electronics manufacturers can use to create new products. 

Copper, cobalt, nickel, and lithium can be obtained through Li-Cycle’s process, and the source says that the company is looking into opening a factory in Rochester, New York, by this year (2023) that will be capable of processing the “black mass” into usable raw materials. 

What Li-Cycle is doing is a crucial part of the process to create a carbon-neutral future. With the current administration pushing for half of all vehicle sales to be electric by 2030, now is the crucial time window for companies to come out with solutions for recycling and ease production woes based on supply chain issues. Vox states that “the US doesn’t have the mining capacity or known mineral deposits that other countries have, but what it can do is create a homegrown recycling industry.” 

Vox also claims that the problem with creating new batteries is raw materials. The raw materials needed to create batteries are becoming more and more in demand as more car, motorcycle, and electronics companies demand them. 

There is also room to grow according to the numbers presented by the source which states that “the US has a poor track record of recycling the lithium-ion batteries in consumer electronics. Some estimates show as little as 5 percent of those batteries end up recycled,” as stated in the Vox article. 

One problem that Li-Cycle might have to figure out first will be to mitigate the costs and the efforts that are required to recycle batteries from consumer electronics. Right now, the company takes manufacturing scrap which is the excess or defective materials that come from battery production, turning it into something that is usable. Factoring in the added work of extracting raw materials from phones and other products and chucking them into a “blender” is currently a costly process. 

Dismantling batteries are considered a dangerous process, and doing so improperly could pose a fire risk. Right now, battery recycling centers are quite far apart in the US which is a big logistical challenge that incurs a lot of costs at the moment. Mining for raw materials ends up being cheaper as a result. Further investment is required to bring the costs down and incentivize the recycling process. Hopefully, that happens in the near future. 

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