Ecological, electric cars? To replace the entire thermal vehicle fleet in the next twenty years, their batteries alone would require more metals than the planet can provide… Could the solution come from recycling? The point in this excerpt from “Further investigation”.
Across the world, many countries have announced a ban on the sale of thermal vehicles by 2040. A global conversion to electric is therefore underway, with ever-increasing pressure on raw materials. What if, as with oil, the resource runs out?
“On the planet, confirms engineer Laurent Castaignède, specialist in the transport sector, there are no metals available to drive all soon in an electric vehicle. There are 1 billion 100 million cars in circulation in the world, 500 million two-wheelers… ” It is therefore impossible to imagine replacing this park in twenty years.
After dismantling, separation of metals, chemical treatment …
Could the solution come from recycling? In any case, car manufacturers have an obligation to treat batteries at the end of their life. This task is entrusted to specialized companies. “Further investigation” followed the treatment of Renault vehicle batteries.
Few electric cars are currently in circulation, so volumes are low. All the connections are first dismantled into modules, stored in aluminum boxes. They contain the famous cells that contain metals. Their extraction requires great care: there is no risk of spreading the solvents they contain into the atmosphere. The cells are then crushed. The operations of separation of the metals which compose them can then begin.
… we manage to isolate 80% of the metals in the battery
After chemical treatment, in total, 80% of the metals in the battery are isolated, such as this nickel salt. What becomes of it? Is it resold to battery manufacturers, for example to produce new ones? As it stands, we are told, its quality is not sufficient. Recycling batteries therefore does not yet make it possible to manufacture new ones. For the moment, the recovered metals are sold, in particular to the metallurgical industry.
Extract from “Electric cars: are they really clean?”, A report to see in “Further investigation” on November 19, 2020.
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