To get a grasp on the current state of play in the battery recycling market, I contacted Yayoi Sekine, an analyst who works as head of energy storage at Bloomberg NEF. We talked about current demand for battery recycling, the companies meeting that demand, the technologies used to recycle batteries today, and the coming growth in the industry.
David- have you checked out the company B2U? A friend of mine was involved in the startup.
Here’s the company link:
And my friend Matt Candler: https://mattcandler.io/
I must admit that I did not finish the podcast before I made my comment. As it turns out DR asked a similar question about 36 minutes in. However, I found the response vague. As noted, use of proprietary designs provide opportunities for product differentiation. However, I am reminded of the WIIFM principal (what's in it for me). When it is more advantageous for a manufacturer to move to standard designs, then standardization will begin.
...and who better knows the advantages of design standardization than the auto industry?
At about the 40 minute mark, the topic was manufacturer responsibilities regarding recycling. Yes, there are examples of this. For one, the large computer printer manufacturers (e.g. HP, Brother, Lexmark) have recycling programs for their ink and laser toner cartridges.
At about the 42 minute mark, the topic was identifying individual batteries. The discussion was about the value of uniquely identifying each battery to track it through its lifecycle. I screamed in my head, "Yes, there is value!" I was also thinking of a past Volts podcast, "Horace Luke on decarbonizing the world's two-wheelers". His business model was a vending machine model for scooter batteries. One never charges their own scooter batteries. They simply go to one of Mr. Luke's locations and swap out the used battery for a charged one. Mr. Luke discussed the business value of having each battery identified within their data system. It allowed for the "user experience [to be] as seamless as possible."
Mr. Luke went on to say, " One of the things that we absolutely needed to do is to make it [recharging scooters] so much better than gasoline from a user experience perspective, so that people would want to switch over. "
"So no credit card, no phone, nothing needed. You put your battery in, and because our battery has NFC on it, it carries your credentials – who you are, how many kilometers you’ve ridden. You put your battery in and it calculates whether you paid your bill, how much is needed for this time, how you rode and how much energy you used, then picks the right battery and spits a new one out for you that is fully charged. "
While these applications from battery data is not applicable for EVs, it does illustrate there are possibilities beyond the obvious.
Lastly, please note that in the podcast, Mr. Luke's batteries was of a design that fit multiple scooter manufacturers.
I can’t help but wonder if EV battery design standardization has any benefit to recycling. I understand that battery energy attributes may be different from one vehicle class to another but I wonder if the physical design can be standardized across the vehicle classes. And if so, whether that makes it easier for recyclers further down the product lifecycle in getting to the materials they seek. I would think standardization also makes for cheaper manufacturing - no?
…or are we just too early in the evolution of EV battery technology?
Thank you for having a program on this very important subject. There was an article a year or so ago in Science or Nature about this issue. One of the current problems appears to be that there is no standardization in the industry with respect to the way the electric car batteries are constructed. There are multiple battery configurations. This will make recycling more difficult. The article also noted that the batteries need be built in a way that allows them to be easily disassembled to gain access to their most valuable components. Apparently, that hasn't yet happened. You and your guest discuss a "dream world" where there is a closed loop with no need to input new materials. This is indeed a dream world since it would violate the laws of thermodynamics. There are always losses associated with any process so no closed loop is possible. This fact means there also needs to be a discussion of the waste products produced by battery recycling. What are they? Are they hazardous? How much material are we talking about? And where does it all go? A number of analysts are concerned about the environmental impacts that will result from the mining of minerals for electric batteries. Do we have an accurate assessment of the size of these impacts? Historically, the mining industry has left a terribly legacy of negative environmental consequences. Hopefully they can do better in the future, but I'm not very optimistic that this will happen.
Hi Dave, any chance you could interview someone regarding Hydrogen and its future. Thanks