Expired EV batteries face uncertain future, says report

 Tesla Model S electric vehicle Alt text/Description
The expected retirement of early-generation electric vehicles could eventually produce a glut of vehicle batteries whose capacity is not entirely spent but no longer useful for vehicles. (Pixabay)

With more electric vehicles coming onto the market, there’s the potential for a glut of used vehicle batteries coming onto the supply chain within the next decade, according to a report from IDTechEx titled “Second-life Electric Vehicle Batteries 2020-2030.” The firm says that the eventual retirement of some early generation electric vehicles will leave a number of used batteries that, while unable to meet the power needs of electric vehicles, may still have sufficient capacity for other applications.  

IDTechEx said there will be over 6 million battery packs retiring from electric vehicles per year by 2030. According to the firm, while battery recycling is the default option, the batteries may, at 70 to 80% of original capacity, find uses in less demanding applications such as stationary energy storage, prior to recycling. Major OEMs and energy storage companies have launched various pilot and business initiatives to explore second-life applications for used EV batteries, according to the study.

By 2030, IDTechEx expects second-life battery capacity will hit over 275 GWh per year. However, many technical, economic and regulatory challenges exist that might make it difficult for companies to profit from second-life batteries, the firm said.

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According to IDTechEx, the potential value of second-life batteries is impacted by how the batteries are designed and used in their first life in the electric vehicles, how they are collected and used in second-life applications, and the value of recycling.

One automaker, Volkswagen, earlier this year unveiled its "power bank for the e-car", a mobile rapid charger consisting of up to 360 kWh second-life EV batteries that can charge up to four vehicles simultaneously. The second-life, battery-powered mobile charging stations could provide a flexible and cost-efficient approach to the rapid expansion of the charging infrastructure.

The need to recycle older vehicle batteries could also become crucial because projections of robust electric vehicle growth are likely to strain the supply chain to refine nickel and other metals to meet growing demand for new vehicle batteries. 

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