One of the big “gotchas” that anti-EV folks love to pull out on social media is the future of your battery. In their minds, an expensive EV battery pack doesn’t last very long and is absolutely not recyclable. So, one thinks, an electric car isn’t very green, is it? Checkmate, libs!
But they shouldn’t be so quick to claim victory. There are some gaping holes in the argument (although we know that won’t stop them from doing it over and over and over again).
The good news is that a recent press release from Toyota shows us that the claim is even less true in 2022 than ever before. But first, let’s talk about battery longevity.
EV batteries can easily outlast the car
As we have pointed out here before CleanTechnica, the biggest problem with their reasoning is that battery packs are likely to last a car’s lifetime. While there have certainly been battery replacements under warranty (just like any ICE car, motors are replaced under warranty), this sometimes happens hundreds of thousands of miles into the car’s life. Teslas are known for their long-lasting battery performance, with a Tesla cab remaining usable for over 180,000 miles on its first battery and then continuing to be used for over 600,000 miles with a second battery. Another Tesla’s battery (driven extensively for Uber) lasted 250,000 miles before needing replacement. The second battery then ran at least 175,000 miles and was still strong (less than 20% degradation).
Many people think that Tesla is the only car company with good electric vehicles and therefore the only company that makes battery packs that last, but that’s just not true. There are other vehicles out there that prove that durable packs are possible, such as the Bolt EV.
While the Bolt does have some downsides (charging at 55kW), it’s proven to be very resilient – even when used a lot for things like Uber, or when driven fast and charged a lot. While we can’t rely on them entirely, there are many “I heard from a guy” stories from Bolt owners who say their cars have clocked up over 200,000 miles without much deterioration. There’s at least one we can verify was real, and not an example of what I like to call the “31 flavor fallacy.” Here’s the video:
So clearly in the future there will be many battery cells and battery packs that will outlast the vehicles they were built for.
What do we do with these batteries?
The next obvious question for the haters and the oil-financed shills is what will happen to all the dead batteries. Again, they’re absolutely not recyclable, are they? So, we’re back to “checkmate, libs!”
Or are we?
Sure, recycling will be a challenge, but we’re not even at that point in the life of a battery cell yet. There is still some work these battery cells could do after the car wears out, breaks down or gets another battery because the original one lost too much range. To give my imaginary “checkmate, libs” guy the benefit of the doubt, we assume (wrongly) that all old batteries are now unusable for transportation because they’ve lost half their range.
Even then, stationary storage is a great use for them. Per unit of stored energy (kWh), they now weigh at least twice as much as when new, and when compared to future EV batteries, the comparison could be even worse.
But we’ve been making this stationary storage argument for years without much real-world testing, until now.
Toyota Recycled Battery to Grid test
A few days ago (October 27), JERA Co., Inc. and Toyota unveiled the world’s first large-capacity sweep energy storage system. The system was created using batteries from previously owned electrified vehicles (HEV, PHEV, BEV, FCEV) and is now connected to the electrical grid of consumers.
With the move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, the demand for storage batteries is expected to increase. Because they can help to stabilize the power supply if renewables are used more. At the same time, we must be careful how we use battery materials such as cobalt and lithium as these resources are limited. One way to do this is to recycle used batteries from electric vehicles to reuse them as accumulators.
After the initial discussion in 2018 by JERA and Toyota about the introduction of battery reuse technologies, they finally developed this large-capacity, grid-connected sweep energy storage system. Toyota’s new storage system, called Sweep, makes it possible to use old car batteries that would normally be thrown away. It does this by controlling the discharge of energy through a series of connected batteries in microseconds.
According to Toyota, the sweep function also enables AC output directly from the batteries, and integrated inverters, which eliminate the need for a power conditioner, can be reused. This helps reduce costs associated with power losses during AC to DC conversion by PCS; this also improves overall energy efficiency. It seems unlikely that they figured out true AC batteries, but they recycle vehicle electronics to convert DC to AC, which probably leads them to claim this.
JERA and Toyota’s project involves storing electricity in grid batteries at JERA’s Yokkaichi Thermal Power Plant, which is connected to Chubu Electric Power Grid Co., Inc. from a facility. By the mid-2020s, when this system is fully operational, it will provide 100,000 kWh of energy, reducing both storage system operating costs and CO2 emissions.
In addition, JERA is refining a process that recycles lithium-ion batteries for electrified vehicles in an environmentally friendly manner. Toyota plans to support JERA by sharing its accumulated expertise and knowledge on battery recycling. By collecting used batteries and reusing resources, both companies strive to advance the realization of a resource-recycling society.
What about recycling?
Although I could link the many stories CleanTechnica For example, if we’ve run through battery recycling initiatives or referred to the press release referenced in a Toyota press release, it’s important to note that by the time an EV wears out and the cells become too useless for stationary storage, we’ve already seen decades. Today’s experimental and relatively small-scale recycling efforts will have had plenty of time to improve and scale by then.
Featured image provided by Toyota.
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