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By Prof. Dave Worsley, Vice President (Innovation), Swansea University

A great opportunity for the circular economy space. Dave Worsley responds to The Telegraph’s article ‘Britain faces ‘waste battery mountain’ as electric car use surges

An article published in The Telegraph reports that:

“Britain faces a new waste crisis from a “ battery mountain” caused by the growing use of electric cars, according to an academic study.

Researchers have calculated that the one million electric cars sold in 2017 alone will produce 250,000 metric tons, or half a million cubic metres, of unprocessed battery pack waste when they reach the end of their lives in seven to ten years’ time, enough to fill 67 Olympic swimming pools.

At present, the one million cars account for just 1.3 per cent of annual worldwide sales but it is projected that electric cars could make up more than half of all new sales by 2040 as part of efforts to combat climate change.”

This is genuinely a big opportunity.

Rather than recycling we should reuse and re-purpose.

A warranty failed battery still has 70 to 80% capacity.  So from a small electric vehicle now that is around 30 kWh. This is clearly something that could power a number of houses. Given typical powerwall installs of 6.9, 9 or now 15 kWh.

As we move forward there is also a great opportunity in the circular economy space for materials recovery experts to set up and run recycling activities for genuinely dead battery packs.

Clearly their cost shows the value of the materials within.

Ultimately there is also a clear challenge for battery researchers.

This is two fold. One, making lifetime far greater, which is particularly the case for static stores.  Two, designing for materials recovery at the manufacturing stage.

This latter point affects all manufactured goods. And so this is an industry wide challenge.

Published December 2019