Race on to find use for dead EV batteries

Source: 1News

While electric vehicles are often seen as the face of the green revolution, the race is on to make their batteries more environmentally-friendly.

The Government estimate in the coming decades, New Zealand will have to deal with thousands of used lithium-ion batteries a year - with limited options currently with re-purposing or recycling them en masse.

It comes as the Government continues to push more and more New Zealanders into EV's and Hybrids - 7922 EV and Hybrid vehicles were registered since a rebate scheme began six months ago.

Transport Minister, Michael Wood, said he was aware of some of the environmental challenges.

"Across all these things we need to be careful about the environmental impacts," he told 1News.

"We need to make this transition - we're making the policies and putting them in place.

Some of those impacts are from well before an EV arrived in New Zealand to be sold.

Traditionally, lithium is mined out of hard rock in places like China, or on salt flats like in the Atacama Desert in South America.

"Most of those are done through an evaporative process where the lithium is brought to the surface, in lithium bearing fluids, and evaporated in enormous lakes what does that is concentrate the salts - and cause real challenges in ground water supplies for farmers and communities," said John Worth, a of GEO40, a company that is looking at alternative - and sustainable - lithium extraction in New Zealand.

"The race is on to find genuinely sustainable sources of lithium - that's exactly what we are trying to do."

And when the EV has arrived in New Zealand, been driven, and reached the end of its life, there still were questions over what to do with the batteries.

The Ministry for the Environment estimated there were about 1000 EV batteries reaching the end of their use in 2020. That number is expected to reach 84,000 a year in 2030.

The Government, alongside the car industry, were working on a stewardship scheme and introduce new regulation to put more responsibility onto manufactures and importers to look after the products they make and sell in New Zealand.

"If they're not managed appropriately, they could be disposed of illegally," said Shaun Lewis, of the Ministry for the Environment.

"We see the problem with end-of-life tire piles at the moment where we have tire piles accumulating around the country over decades, you could end up with a similar scenario," he said.

"Essentially, where we are hoping to get to is products that are better designed, that last longer, that can be repaired, and we can recover the materials in then at the end of their life."