Every challenge presents opportunities for new businesses and business tycoons. E-waste of EV batteries seems to be one such case.
It is well-known that lithium-ion batteries constitute the core of electric vehicles (EVs), but it is equally well-known that the landfills are full. So, where will the batteries be dumped after their use?
Understandably, the calls for circularity, which involves the recovery of resources from the so-called waste, are gaining traction. To figure out the challenges and opportunities presented by this trend, this report, based on some industry events, puts across some facts that need to be considered.
First, let’s look at the prominent trends related to the use of batteries in EVs and their e-waste.
- India is moving toward renewable energy sources rather than relying on the conventional energy sources that are riddled with challenging geographical and geopolitical issues.
- The Indian market is growing at an exponential rate. Also, EVs are trending. So, the demand for lithium-ion batteries is set to boom.
- Before 2017, lithium-ion batteries existed in the market but the quantum of these batteries has vastly increased from the time electric mobility came into the picture.
- The annual lithium-ion battery potential from EVs is likely to reach 130 gigawatt hours (GWh) in India by FY2030, from 5GWh as of FY2022.
- At present, EVs account for a 30% share of the overall lithium-ion batteries’ deployment in India. By 2030, the share is expected to increase to 60%.
- Within EVs, electric 2-wheelers will be the major segment which will hold a majority share of over 80% by 2030. The electric 3-wheelers will also have a substantial share.
- On the basis of this demand for lithium-ion batteries, their recycling market potential in India is expected to cross 48GWh by 2030.
- The lithium-ion batteries can be recycled as well as refurbished for reuse.
- From the perspective of recyclers, the majority of scrap coming out in India is from mobile phone batteries. The electric 2-wheeler batteries have started coming in, but these have NMC (nickel, manganese, and cobalt) cells.
- In the case of electric 2-wheelers and electric 3-wheelers, nearly 75% of such batteries are being recycled and the rest 25% are estimated to be used for a second life, like behind-the-meter (energy production and storage systems that directly supply homes and buildings with electricity) applications.
- In the case of e-cars and e-buses, second-life usage is as high as 60%.
- The battery recycling process entails pre-treatment, which constitutes the thermal process and mechanical processes. Then comes post-treatment, for which two technologies are deployed: pyrometallurgy and hydrometallurgy. In India, hydrometallurgy is the most used. Direct recycling is also possible, which is more favourable for LFP (lithium iron phosphate).
- Lithium nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) oxide batteries’ chemistry provides higher energy density, low weight, etc, while LFP provides higher safety and better cycle life. We are moving more towards LFP but there isn’t much to recover here.
- We are going through this technological evolution. Some other chemistries will also come soon. The suitability for the recycling is going to be determined by the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) themselves.