Electric cars are considered more environment friendly cars compared to oil driven cars. The cars are powered by a battery which gets charged just like any other ordinary battery.
But one thing that most people do not understand is that these batteries are made of certain chemicals and metals which pose some negative impacts not only to the environment but also to human beings and animals.
This article will take a keen look into the compositions of some of the electric car batteries and the environmental impacts that these batteries and their components have.
The ecological footprint of electric vehicles can be assessed in two dimensions; the good and the bad.
Nickel Electric Car Batteries
Some of the electric car batteries are made of nickel metal. Such batteries contain nickel oxy-hydroxide (NiOx) and hydrogen(H) elements as well as potassium hydroxide (KOH). When these chemicals come together they form two components of nickel hydroxide (NiOH2) and potassium hydroxide.
Potassium hydroxide is considered as a highly poisonous substance which can cause severe pain, vomiting, diarrhea, body weakness and fainting when swallowed by both humans and animals. On the other hand it has been proven that nickel hydroxide can cause cancer in both human beings and animals.
Nickel hydroxide chemical releases toxic gases and vapors such as nickel carbonyl into the environment especially when left to decompose. Another dangerous metal that is found in nickel batteries is lanthanum, metal which is used to hold hydrogen; this metal is also highly toxic.
Lithium Electric Car Batteries
Another type of the most common electric car batteries are the lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are made of metals which produce lithium-ion and elemental lithium and graphite.
These batteries also contain lithium carbonate (Li2CO3), which is a poisonous substance to both humans and animals. The substance can also react with water to form hydrofluoric acid (HF), which is a major pollutant and is also highly poisonous.
Nickel and cobalt batteries have led to the overproduction and extraction of both nickel and cobalt compounds. This has led to the depletion of the two minerals and the degradation of the environment.
The two elements have also been associated with global warming, poor respiratory systems, pulmonary effects and other neurological disorders. It is also important to note that the electricity grids used in charging lithium-ion batteries also contribute to global warming and other environmental and health impacts.
Resources with doubt in green nature of electric vehicles:
- Electric cars 'pose environmental threat’
- How Green Is a Tesla, Really?
- Electric Vehicles Better for the Environment than Gas-Powered Ones?
- How Green are Automotive Lithium-Ion Batteries?
Recycling Of Electric Car Batteries
To control and minimize the negative impacts that these batteries pose on our environment, the materials from the batteries can be recycled and reused after the battery has lived its full duration.
The manufacturers of such batteries need to be extra careful when manufacturing the batteries in order to prevent harmful components from making their way into the environment. Other remedies may include the substitution of the cathode materials being used in different batteries as well as using a solvent-less electrode processing method.
In terms of charging the batteries it will be more environmental friendly to use coal energy because it is natural, it emits less greenhouse gases and is also renewable.
Because the electric car market is still small and limited the market of recycling the batteries is also still limited. Commercial electric car battery recycling would greatly help in keeping hazardous and poisonous materials from entering the waste streams and polluting the environment.
The toxic chemicals from these batteries can find their way into water bodies and the environment during the production of such batteries of at the end of the batteries life and recycling will help in curbing this dangerous menace.
There are different types of battery recycling, which include the following:
The Smelting Battery Recycling Process
Smelting is a recycling process in which important and basic elements or salts are recovered during the production of the batteries or at the end of the batteries life. This type of recycling is done on a large scale and can handle all types of electric car batteries.
Smelting is normally done at extremely high temperatures, and involves the burning of organic materials like electrolyte and carbon anodes into fuel. The valuable metals and components are then recovered and sent for refining so that they can be reused.
The remaining materials like lithium are normally used as kept aside for other uses including being used as an additive in concrete.
The Direct Recovery Battery Recycling Process
In the direct recovery recycling process, the materials are recovered directly. In this process the components are separated using both physical and chemical processes.
Direct recovery process operates on extremely low temperatures and requires very little energy. However, this process does not accept all types of electric batteries.
The Intermediate Battery Recycling Processes
This process of recycling car batteries can be used both at the production stage as well as at the recycling stage. It can be used to extract dangerous and important components from batteries at the end of the battery life.
It is a very vital process during battery production because it helps in minimizing the amount hazardous substances that make their way into the environment. This process accepts all types of batteries.
The extraction of different components from different batteries can be however tricky, especially if the components are high value components. For this reason manufactures have been encouraged to incorporate battery recycling and dismantling processes during the production stage; they need to manufacture batteries that can be easily disassembled and recycled.
They have also been urged to standardize the batteries and use materials that are easily recyclable as well as coming up with simple battery designs. Manufactures can also resort to using battery components which are not harmful to the environment and humans because this will also help in minimizing these environmental effects.
Car owners also need and must be part of this process, they should make sure that the batteries they use reach their complete life duration and they must ensure that at all costs the batteries are not dumped anyhow.
The cost of recycling electric car batteries might be slightly higher but it is nothing compared to effects such batteries can cause to our environment.
At The End: Sustainability
Interesting take in reusing of EV car batteries (video):