When you put a battery-powered vehicle on the market, you know that sooner or later the battery will come to the end of its use. For environmental reasons, the aim is to arrive at that stage later-rather-than-sooner, and bring the actual waste down to an absolute minimum.

But how exactly do you do that?

The European Union proposes a ‘Waste Management Hierarchy’ as a guide for taking the right action at the right time. Keep on reading and find out what that means specifically for your used EV batteries.

The Waste Management Hierarchy for EV batteries

The Waste Management Hierarchy has the shape of a funnel, with the most desirable approach for the environment at the top, and the least desirable at the bottom.

For your lithium-ion batteries, you want to start at the top, maximize your efforts there, and work your way down as slowly as possible.

Reneos Waste Management blog 1

To illustrate this more clearly, let’s assume you are a car manufacturer releasing the next state-of-the-art electric vehicle, powered by a lithium-ion battery. The hierarchy suggests there is an ideal (prolonged) life-cycle for that battery, in 5 stages.

Let’s take a closer look at these stages, and establish the most preferable actions you can take.

PREVENTION: Prevent the battery from becoming waste

The first step of waste management needs to be considered even before the vehicle gets released on the market. The longer you can keep the battery from becoming waste, the better for the environment. So ideally, this is what you should do:

  1. Select a battery with a long lifespan. The better the quality of the battery, the longer it will be in use before you even need to think about the next step.
  2. Explain to your customers how to handle the battery responsibly, so it doesn't end up in the disposal phase before its time.
Reneos Waste Management blog 2

Now, after you’ve done all that, let’s flash forward a good ten years into the future. The battery has reached the end of its capacity to efficiently power the electric vehicle it was built for. What do you do next?

REUSE : Find a second life application for the used battery cells

When the lithium-ion battery drops to 70 to 80% of its initial capacity, it approaches the end of its electric vehicle journey. But that doesn’t mean its entire life is over.

There are many second-use applications for which battery performance is less critical. After remanufacturing, the battery is still able to perform well enough to serve less demanding applications, like stationary energy-storage services.

Reneos Waste Management blog 3

For instance, your used EV battery might find its second purpose with a power producing company. They use the cells for another 8 to 10 years, storing energy to ensure continuity in the case of intermittent renewables, peak demand and short outages.

According to the waste management hierarchy, reuse is always preferred to recycling. But as the electric vehicle market keeps on growing, the supply of used EV batteries will eventually exceed the quantity that the second-use market can absorb.

In the case where no second life can be found for your battery, you go on to the next step in the funnel: recycling.

RECYCLING: Preserve the valuable raw materials of the battery

The used Li-ion battery from your electric vehicle still contains a lot of valuable raw materials, like lithium, cobalt and nickel. Extracting these from used batteries lowers the need for new mineral extraction, which benefits the economy.

The recycled raw materials can be reused for manufacturing new products.

Now, what happens to the components of a battery that can’t be recycled? There’s one last way to get value out of the used batteries before their inevitable disposal: recovery.

RECOVERY: Use recovered battery materials for energy

Some of the battery materials can be used as energy for processes such as fuel for pyrometallurgy. The pyrometallurgy process uses heat to extract metals from their ores or from scrap.

Blog image 4

DISPOSAL: Only dispose of batteries when their value is exhausted

Only when absolutely no value can be recovered, a small percentage of the battery arrives at the last phase: disposal. Since this is the least environmentally friendly action, you are strongly advised to avoid this as much as possible.

Reneos guides you through the Waste Management Hierarchy

The journey of waste batteries can be an overwhelming one: you need to be aware of the many rules and legislations (which is especially challenging when your activities are spread across different countries); you need to get a proper diagnosis for each battery before you can decide what action to take; and safety issues arise when it comes to transportation, dismantling and recovery of used batteries.

That’s why Reneos is there for you in every step of the funnel. We happily answer all of your questions, deal with your compliance issues, contact the right partners and take care of battery collection, transport, dismantling and recycling, wherever you are in Europe.

Reneos Waste Management blog 5

We take care of 7 challenges with used EV batteries:

  • Legal compliance
  • Collection
  • Transportation
  • Storage
  • Dismantling
  • Second life applications on request
  • Recycling

Find out more about Reneos’ solutions to your battery challenges in this article: How Reneos takes care of your used EV batteries, Europe wide

With Reneos, you choose what you need. No more, no less. Every agreement is made to measure.

Do you want to know more about our services?