Second Life Batteries: Benefits and Drawbacks of Recycling Lithium-Ion EV Batteries


Second Life Batteries: Benefits and Drawbacks of Recycling Lithium-Ion EV Batteries, Electric vehicles (EVs) have become more popular over the past several years due to many environmental benefits, including zero-carbon tailpipe emissions, higher powertrain efficiency, and less urban air pollution. However, the problems posed by the manufacture and end-of-life processes of electric vehicles affect the industry’s advancement. This article will look at second-life batteries as a possible solution to these EV issues.

The Reuse and Recycling of Li-ion Batteries

Reusing and recycling lithium-ion batteries has challenged the automotive industry in recent years.  The waste produced places various demands on the recycling and end-of-life dismantling systems within the industry. The metals used in these batteries are very difficult to extract, so the reuse of lithium-ion batteries or recycling of their internal components would significantly reduce their cost, making EVs even more accessible.

The Environmental Impact of Second-Life Batteries

Using today’s methods, reusing batteries for another five to seven years offers a cleaner environmental solution. For example, using second-life batteries could reduce the gross energy demand and global warming potential by up to 70%.

The proposed benefits could cause significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the demand for extraction of metals and materials, reducing the transportation and energy cost of electric vehicle production and the recycling of the batteries.

However, the batteries are difficult to handle as battery collection at vehicle end-of-life is a challenge in developing a second use for re-purposed battery systems.​​​​​​​ Battery removal poses hazards associated with high-voltage safety and handling of liquid coolant, which also increases the difficulty of recycling or reusing batteries as creating a system for recycling the batteries at different points in their life cycle poses a challenge in trying to obtain the appropriate information necessary to make these assessments.

Methods of Recycling Li-ion Batteries

Second Life Batteries: Benefits and Drawbacks of Recycling Lithium-Ion EV Batteries, There are three mainstream methods for recycling lithium-ion batteries:

  • Pyrometallurgy
  • Hydrometallurgy
  • Direct recycling

Full refunctionalization requires the same steps as the resynthesize method and may not present an economic advantage.

A 2013 study by the Korean Chemical Society into the standard thermal treatment method used to recover cathode materials found that the recycled cathode materials showed higher specific capacity than the original cathode materials.

​​This wide use case allows for more open-loop recycling than just closed-loop recycling within the industry.

For lithium ferro-phosphate batteries used in many commercial vehicles, existing pyrometallurgy provides much greater environmental benefits, while advanced hydrometallurgy imposes a greater environmental burden due to high greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.



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