The deployment of electric vehicles (EV) can significantly contribute to the global clean energy transition. But while EVs emit zero direct emissions, their production is highly resource- and emissions-intensive
These emissions could be brought down by 14-23% by 2040. For this, their crucial component – lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) – would need to be recycled at the end of their life cycle, allowing the resulting secondary raw materials to be used in new battery production. This would also avoid some of the waste and disposal problems posed by batteries.
Circular economy solutions include reusing discarded batteries still in good condition, repurposing them, and/or recycling them to recover component materials. More mature recycling chains will need to be developed for batteries at the end of their second life, especially since, at full development of the EV market, the quantity of batteries needing recycling is expected to exceed demand for second-use.
The LIB recycling market is still in its infancy, but it is projected that recycled batteries could meet at least 28% of new battery material demand by 2040. The complexity of battery design, material chemistries and current lack of sufficient waste stock all hamper its economic viability. But the projected growth should enable sufficient economies of scale for recycling to ensure profitability.