What happens to all old EV batteries?

As the future goes electric, consumers are wondering where their car batteries come from and what happens to them when they are replaced. It’s a good idea to worry about the environmental impact these things have on our planet. We’ll take a closer look at the EV battery process from start to finish. From recycling the old to building the new, your questions will certainly find an answer here!

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EV batteries are serious business

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Street view of the CATL battery production plant
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Front view of the CATL battery production plant which manufactures batteries for electric vehicles worldwide.

You would think that once an electric vehicle starts to age, you throw the whole thing in a car shredder at the local landfill. Maybe that was how things were done in the past, but not anymore. Battery recycling has grown rapidly over the past two decades and is now common practice when handling this potentially toxic waste. While there is a lot of work going on to advance the manufacture of electric vehicles to replace fossil fuel cars forever, many people are also working to ensure that electric vehicle batteries are repurposed, repurposed and properly recycled. This process has largely been left to the EV companies themselves, especially in California, where electric vehicle sales are expected to completely replace gas-powered cars by 2035. The more electric cars we have, the faster the vehicle retirement rate will be – that means we have to be ready to handle all those incoming batteries. But, how exactly does this process work?


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EV batteries are reused in many ways

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EV Battery Grid Storage Forklift Replacement
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Rear angle view of a forklift replacing EV batteries in storage.

The assumption for most batteries is often that they lose their value once they start losing their charge. And, yes, if you just throw them in a trash can on the way to the landfill, it won’t be good for the environment. But, if given to the right collector (most likely the automaker itself when trading it in for a new one), you’ll be doing the planet and the economy a favor. Batteries are often reused in other ways, such as being placed in packs (several batteries combined) on your local power grid (or private off-grid) to store energy via solar during the day while broadcasting at night. Think about that the next time you suck energy into your man cave late at night!

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Old EV batteries become new batteries

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Toyota EV86 bonnet open
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Front view of a Toyota EV86 with its hood open to show its battery.

Even after being reused, batteries will continue to lose their charge over time and eventually die. Here’s the part with a heavy dose of science. Thanks to advancements in the industry, hydrometallurgy is what is mainly used to break down, separate and recycle the various components that make up car batteries. This process isn’t state-of-the-art – it’s actually been around for over a decade now – and it continues to evolve and improve every year. Essentially, the event goes as follows: the batteries are thrown into giant shredders which cut them into small pieces. This shredded mixture is then dumped into the water where the plastic (floats) is separated from the metal (sinks). The plastic is recycled, and the metal is separated and reused to make – you guessed it – new batteries! Many of these recycling companies are based right here in the United States. And, while they may tweak the process slightly here and there, the essentials remain the same. The best part is that these companies report EV battery material recovery rate up to 98%.

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EV batteries are built from raw and recycled materials

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Interior of the Tesla factory in front of the car
Steve Jurvetson via Wikimedia Commons

Interior view of the Tesla factory

Now that we have all these beautiful recycled materials, we go back to the beginning. It might make you wonder “how exactly are car batteries made“The construction process, like the recycling process, has come a very long way over the decades. Old lead-acid batteries are being quickly phased out and lithium-ion batteries are taking their place. batteries are made from either carbon or graphite, a metal oxide and a lithium salt – when combined these ingredients make up the positive and negative electrodes When combined with electrolytes they produce the current the electric power your car needs. The batteries are built in large manufacturing plants that build the new batteries we have in our cars when they come out of the lot. Once they age, they are then recycled. The future looks radiant thanks to this whole process – from making new ones to destroying old ones. New research shows that by 2050recycled materials could account for 45-52% of the cobalt, 22-27% of the lithium, and 40-46% of the nickel used in US auto markets.

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EV Battery Recycling Myths

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Factory spitting air pollution sunset
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An exterior view of a factory spewing air pollution during a sunset.

Many people might hear the positives of recycling car batteries (and all batteries in general) and think there’s no downside to it – but like most things in our world, it’s not another perfect process. Waste is inevitably produced by the battery recycling process, and it creates areas of toxic waste to deal with. The good news, however, is that these battery recycling companies have a strong incentive to reduce waste because they can sell the materials they save – the more they can save/recycle, the more money they can make. The factories they build get better with each new design, to the point where they can save more and more materials from the batteries they grind, smelt, and resell to the hungry battery industry. This helps reduce the number of toxic environments created by mining and old-style recycling centers when looking for fresh or improperly recycled products. However, it is important to note here that even in environments where there is refined waste produced by “dirty recycling”, it is still better for the environment and a good investment compared to the old ways of not recycling. and dependence on oil for new products. . Introducing chemists and engineers to projects increases the numbers with cleaner recycling getting faster and faster, almost to a 100% success rate in some cases.

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Outside view of the oil field
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Exterior view of an oil field located in Panjin, Liaoning, China.

Another myth swirling around the EV industry is that nothing is trying to stop them – this is far from true. The oil industry has been working to stop competition from electric cars for decades, and today is no different. However, the oil companies found it much more difficult this time to lobby because the companies they are trying to push have as much money as the oil companies, like all of their friends. Gasoline was the glue that held the two types of businesses together, our fathers knew them well. Unfortunately this glue has worn out and is not aging well – it is being replaced. That’s not to say oil doesn’t have its modern uses yet – but when it comes to cars and much of the power grid, the future is electric. The more emissions we can eliminate, the better. The oil industry is a lot like the cigarette industry – it just can’t spend enough money on the problem of killing millions of people to get away with it. Cigarette smoke and polluting emissions are alike in many ways – they are both deadly to mankind. Switching to electric transportation and grid systems would reduce emissions so much that we could help secure a better future for our children who will inherit the planet.


Q: How are electric vehicle batteries managed as they age?

As long as they are disposed of properly, most car batteries are either reused or recycled.

Q: How are electric vehicle batteries recycled and repurposed?

Car batteries are usually grouped together in large groups to create huge energy storage units that can be used in a variety of ways, such as energy storage for your city’s power grid.

Q: How are electric vehicle batteries recycled after they die?

Once the battery is finally depleted beyond use, it is shredded. The components are then separated by hydrometallurgy and recycled to make new batteries.

Q: How are electric vehicle batteries made?

EV car batteries are built in large production plants that export batteries around the world. They are made with carbon or graphite, a metal oxide and a lithium salt. Battery manufacturers use a combination of raw and recycled materials to make new batteries.

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