Lux Research: Recycling is preferable to reuse for retired EV batteries

Nissan Leaf Battery Pack

Companies around the world, including Nissan, Renault, Daimler, BMW and Siemens, are investigating ways to reuse EV batteries after they retire from the road. Bloomberg analysts recently predicted that by 2025, there will be 29 GWh of used EV batteries available, and that a third of these will enjoy second lives in the stationary storage market.

However, a new report from Lux Research disputes the desirability of reusing batteries, and suggests that it may be better simply to recycle them.

In “Reuse or Recycle: The Billion-Dollar Battery Question,” Lux says that reusing batteries from EVs “will deliver questionable returns due to reduced performance, limiting them to applications with less frequent and shallower depth of discharge cycles.”

Lux forecasts that, in 2035, 65 GWh worth of used EV batteries will come on the market each year. An oversized 11.2 kWh residential storage system made from second-life batteries will cost about $4,600, compared with $6,000 for a new 7 kWh system. However, reduced round-trip efficiency and cycle life make a second-life system a poor fit for residential units and other daily cycling applications.

There are several different recycling methods available. Pyrometallurgical processing, or smelting, is the most mature technology, and can recover key metallic elements. Mechanical processing can recover valuable cathode materials directly, and hydrometallurgical processing can offer lower costs.

While automakers such as Nissan, Daimler and BMW are already commercializing residential storage products, Tesla pursues recycling, as its NCA cathodes are not suitable for most stationary storage needs.

“With present technology, recycling old batteries for new materials is the more economical option for creating the most value from existing materials,” said Christopher Robinson, Lux Research Associate and lead author of the report. “That said, innovations in areas like packaging and testing could tip the balance in the future, so companies should have plans for both recycling and reuse.”

 

Source: Lux Research via Green Car Congress

  • John Palmerlee

    Interesting perspective.
    However, from a manufacturing energy perspective, since a repurposed battery will eventually be recycled with the same energy cost, why not do a little more work to find efficient uses for these great batteries. For instance, I just re-used a Nissan leaf battery pack to upgrade my EV converted pickup from lead acid, gaining a 3x increase in range, with added reliability and efficiency. Cost suggests that this can be wider spread than just an occasional DIY builder.
    However 2, let them start recycling them – that means the price will drop for the DIY and entrepreneur market, widening options. 😉

    • Mia

      So cool that you converted a pickup with a repurposed Leaf pack! Do you have a blog or post about how you did it and how it’s working out for you? Have always loved those mid-60’s Chevy pickups and thought about how fun it would be to convert one.

      • John Palmerlee

        HI Mia – 1985 Toyota XtraCab – I have the original project on the web, but have not yet added the upgrade to lithium ion. Look at runsilentruncheap.org. The Lithium upgrade allowed us to drop back down to the original weight of the pickup, which is about 2700 lbs. Thanks!

        • Mia

          Cool, checking it out, thanks!

          • Mia

            Too cool! Would love to see data on on lithium upgrade. Post to the EAA facebook when you update? I have family in Santa Rosa, will keep keep eye out for you guys next time I visit.

          • Jay Donnaway

            Here’s a couple more lithiumized pickups. John Lussmyer’s F250 and my current project, a Ford Ranger factory EV with two LEAF packs.
            http://john.casadelgato.com/Electric-Vehicles/1995-Ford-F-250
            John hasn’t updated his web site with the lithium data yet either…

            I’ll be posting more on the Ranger soon.
            http://karmanneclectric.blogspot.com/search?q=Ranger&max-results=20&by-date=true

          • Mia

            Just saw the two addt’l links. If Lussmyer’s already getting 30 miles ecodriving / charge I’m curious to see how much that goes up with a lithium pack. What kind of mileage per kwh battery are you expecting in the Ranger?

          • Jay Donnaway

            I’m ‘spectin less than 350 Wh/mile, might EVen average 300 off the highway ’round town. Anyway, with a 48 kWh pack, 100 real miles should be achievable for the long term. Recall that this is a lightweight AC drive, as opposed to Lussmyer’s DC monster.

          • Mia

            Pretty great!