D he used the electricity mix, the CO2-intensive production, the size of the battery etc .: How good or bad the environmental balance of electric cars turns out depends on many factors. One aspect has so far received very little attention: the recycling rate for old lithium-ion batteries. The management consultancy Berylls Strategy Advisors is now putting the spotlight on this topic - and warns against oversleeping.
Higher mandatory recycling quota required
The thing is logical: the more raw materials recycled from discarded electric cars and other lithium-ion batteries and used for new energy storage devices, the less they have to be recovered. After all, the latter often happens under exploitative conditions and in a very environmentally harmful manner. 'If the e-car is to contribute to solving our environmental problems, the topic of recycling has to be on the agenda of the disposal companies as quickly as possible, but above all on that of politics,' says Andreas Radics, analyst at Berylls Strategy Advisors. 'Factories and e-vehicles powered by green electricity may reduce the CO2 footprint of mobility, but what happens at the end of the life of e-vehicles?'
According to the current recycling rate of the beryl battery material is 60 to 70 percent. “It is highly unlikely that it will rise to more than 90 percent without stricter, binding recovery rates,” says Radics. The EU currently assigns a quotaLithium-ion batteries from 50 percent. This is one of the reasons why it is part of the bitter reality that material recovery is not worthwhile despite rising raw material prices, the extraction of lithium or cobalt is currently simply cheaper. 'An EU-wide minimum recycling quota must be established as soon as possible, which prevents valuable materials from being improperly disposed of in third world countries,' says Radics.
No recycling company in Norway
The subject is all the more pressing as the number of registrations of electric cars in Europe is growing steadily. In Germany, 63,281 electric cars and 45,348 plug-in hybrids were newly registered last year; this corresponds to growth rates of 75.5 and 44.2 percent respectively compared to 2018. Other European countries achieve similarly growing rates. But: the possibilities of recycling electric car batteries are hardly growing with them. Berylls has only 16 companies in all of Europe that are located at a total of 27 locations or have recycling companies. In Germany there are therefore six companies with ten locations.
Some countries such as Italy, Austria and Switzerland are white areas on the map of e-car recyclers . There is not a single company there that is certified to recycle lithium-ion batteries. 'The fact that a Tesla that has been damaged in Austria has to be transported to Germany for disposal is now a reality and unacceptable,' says Radics. The situation is similar in the actual electric model country in Europe, Norway. Nowhere in Europe is the share of electric cars in the overall market as high as in the Scandinavian country. But there is no company there that disposes of their old batteries.
'It is still a long way to a high-performance recycler network,' says Andreas Radics. 'But there is a path that has to be taken so that the electric car can keep its green promise.'