Volkswagen Solving Serious Environmental Issue Few Know About

Technology

It's something all carmakers need to take very seriously.

Believe it or not, the typical lead-acid battery is one of the most-recycled items you currently buy. A total of 99 percent of them are recycled in a process that involves shredding or melting them down. Unfortunately, lithium-ion batteries, the ones that power electric vehicles, aren’t recycled quite as easily. In fact, there is no precise recycling process available yet, and that presents a problem when in a couple of decades’ time EVs start to lose their juice. What to do with all of those batteries?

Volkswagen has announced it’s working on the solution. And considering it plans to put one million EVs a year on the road by 2025, solutions are desperately needed. One answer is to use an for home use.

While it may not be able to power a car, that lithium-ion battery, such as the one used for the e-Golf, can store as much energy as the typical American household uses in a single day. Portable charges are another possibility and VW plans to produce a quick-charging station that can power up to four vehicles at a time. Think of a smartphone charger, only for EVs.

Eventually, all lithium-ion batteries will run out of juice completely. Then what? Dump them in some landfill? Preferably not. VW’s is working on a new project at its component plant in Salzgitter, Germany that, if all goes to plan, will become an EV battery recycling center.

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Starting next year, the plant will have an initial capacity of recycling about 1,200 tons of EV batteries annually. That’s equal to the batteries from 3,000 vehicles. The recycling process itself involves a special shredder that literally grinds up the batteries. The liquid electrolyte will be cleaned off while the actual components will be ground up into "black powder.” This powder contains cobalt, lithium, manganese, and nickel – all of which will be separated and reused for new batteries. VW’s ultimate goal is to recycle 97 percent of all raw materials used in battery packs.

Today, it recycles 53 percent. Eventually, EVs will become the norm while internal combustion takes a back seat before it’s phased out entirely. It’s vital to figure out battery recycling methods as EVs are meant to be environmentally friendly.

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