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Old 12-01-2010, 04:35 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question EV from cradle to grave, environment impact?

I am close to finishing up my environmental engineering degree at UCSD, and I have been dying to build a classic car EV or hybrid.
I have begun researching battery options for EVs. I'm very curious about the long run environmental impacts of things. I was wondering what information people have about recycling or disposal of batteries? I've been reading that a lot of metals and components of lithium batteries end up in landfills. Is there a type of battery that is truly alright for the environment and how?

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Old 12-01-2010, 06:25 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Josh,

To the contrary, lithium batteries are nearly as valuable as lower capacity batteries or as recycled materials. Like lead acid batteries, which have a very high recycling rate, the materials in them make it well worthwhile to recycle.
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Old 12-01-2010, 09:32 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NeilBlanchard View Post
Josh,

To the contrary, lithium batteries are nearly as valuable as lower capacity batteries or as recycled materials. Like lead acid batteries, which have a very high recycling rate, the materials in them make it well worthwhile to recycle.
The reason lead-acid batteries are so recycled is that there's a bounty on them (typically $5-12 each.) Lithium, NiCd, NiMH, etc. are just as recyclable, but they tend not to be because there's no incentive, and most local curbside recycling doesn't accept them.

Something to consider when building an EV: lead-acid batteries are cheaper than lithium, but they tend not to last as long. If a 1,500 pound lead-acid pack is replaced every two years, even if it's recycled, there's probably a lot more energy consumed during that lifecycle than an equivalent 500 pound lithium pack that probably lasts 4 times as long.
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Old 12-02-2010, 02:09 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Not to mention a 500 pound battery giving much, much better efficiency due to lack of inertial weight, lack of rolling resistance, and general shinyness
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Old 12-02-2010, 02:19 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmedia View Post
I've been reading that a lot of metals and components of lithium batteries end up in landfills.
The lithium batteries that are ending up in landfills are surely consumer electronics type batteries. Large format batteries will be too valuable to scrap.
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Old 12-02-2010, 05:20 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Lead acid batteries have a core charge or bounty as you put it because they are required to, but even if they didn't they would still have a 12 cent per pound scrap value, T105 golf cart batteries (popular lead acid battery) weigh 67 pounds each and electric cars like mine have 8 of them, Chevy S-10 conversions have 20 or more of these batteries.
From memery the Nissan Leaf has a 500 pound battery, 7 pounds of that is lithium a few pounds of plastic a pound or less is iron, even less then that is carbon the rest of that 500 pounds is copper and aluminum, copper has a scrap value of $1.50 to $2 per pound depending on the market that day, Aluminum last I checked was around 45 cents per pound.
Now the expensive part is that you can't just split a charged lithium battery open, it will short out and over heat, it has very fine layers half the thickness of a sheet of paper, each cell has 130 or so layers from what I am told, each layer being a sheet of copper foil, aluminum foil and lithium paste in a plastic envelope.
So if you discharge them they are safe but if there is damage and you can not be 100% sure that it is safe to grind up and cut appart then you have to freeze it to cryogenic temps and that is part of the cost, so is the man power to take the packs appart.
Just like hybrid battery packs there are people who I'm sure will take appart lithium EV packs, sort and match cells and resell used packs for extended range, home built ev's, quick charging stations that need a battery buffer and of course batteries to act as buffers on the grid as well.
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Old 12-02-2010, 05:36 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I think my EV is the ultimate in eco-friendly recycling! I use batteries that someone else dropped off as a core when they buy a new battery. So I use batteries that were on their way to be recycled, but still have some life left, to keep my EV on the road.
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Old 12-03-2010, 04:30 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Thanks so much for the info!
What im gathering from this thread and research is that batteries CAN be recycled, but no one wants to because we have plenty of supply and recycling process is tedious and expensive. Is that about right?
So if I really wanted to recycle my battery, I could?
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Old 12-03-2010, 04:39 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmedia View Post
Thanks so much for the info!
What im gathering from this thread and research is that batteries CAN be recycled, but no one wants to because we have plenty of supply and recycling process is tedious and expensive. Is that about right?
So if I really wanted to recycle my battery, I could?
Absolutely. Rechargeable batteries can be recycled at Best Buy, Radio Shack, Home Depot and many other locations.

Call2Recycle US > Recycling Your Rechargeable Batteries and Cell Phones

As somebody mentioned, EV batteries don't have this problem since they're large enough to be valuable. In fact, Toyota pays $200 or more for Prius battery packs. That alone will keep them out of the landfill.
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Old 12-06-2010, 04:43 PM   #10 (permalink)
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What about the creation and mining involved in making the batteries? I've heard that is a harsh process using loads of petrol.

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