There’s a new study out that found that recycled lithium-ion batteries are as good as and even better than new batteries made with newly mined materials. Yan Wang, a professor of mechanical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and a team of researchers from the US Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) conducted the study. Along with Wang and his team, A123 Systems, a battery company, also participated in the study. The study has shown that batteries and automakers don’t have to worry about recycled battery materials being as good as freshly mined minerals.
Wang explained to IEEE Spectrum, “In general, people’s impression is that recycled material is not as good as virgin material. Battery companies still hesitate to use recycled material in their batteries.”
Wang and the team of researchers tested batteries with recycled NMC111 cathodes, which are the most common type. These are made up of equal parts of nickel, manganese, and cobalt and were made using a technique that was patented by Battery Resources, a startup that Wang co-founded.
The study, which is published in the academic journal Joule, noted that recycled materials are deemed inferior to commercial materials and that is a hindrance to an industry that needs to adopt recycled materials in new batteries. In the study, the team demonstrated how recycled NMC111 cathodes actually are superior in both rate and cycle performance and verified this with various industry-level tests.
IEEE Spectrum noted that the recycled batteries were not tested in cars to simplify how the team conducted their tests. The team made 11 Ampere-hour industry-standard pouch cells that were loaded with materials at the same density as EV batteries. Wang explained that engineers from A123 Systems performed most of the testing using a protocol devised by the USABC that meets commercial viability goals for plug-in hybrid EVs. The results proved that recycled cathode materials are a viable alternative to pristine materials, the article noted.
Battery Solutions noted that an estimated 3 billion batteries are thrown away each year by Americans, a population of 323 million people.
This includes all types of batteries — not just lithium. However, this emphasized the importance of battery recycling. The idea that there are battery snobs out there looking down their long noses at recycled batteries is silly in light of the climate situation we are dealing with. We need to get over ourselves and discard mentalities such as these. What good are new batteries if we are all dead from climate-caused disasters? That may be a reach, but actually, it’s our future if we don’t get our act together.
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