"When Hans Eric Melin thinks of battery waste, he imagines American driveways
filled with electric vehicles. They look much like the gas-powered cars of
yesterday, large and handsome and well-equipped: family-haulers, boat-towers,
off-road ready. They also do things that those cars didn’t do, like go
from zero to 60 in three seconds and travel 400 miles without emitting any
carbon. The trade-off is that they carry a burden: a massive battery pack that
can push the vehicles’ weight to over 10,000 pounds. Most of the time that pack
is parked, or is being used to a fraction of its capabilities on school
pick-ups or runs to the grocery store. Unless those cars are flying hundreds of
miles down the open highway, which they rarely are, the precious atoms
of cobalt, lithium, and nickel inside of them have very little to do.
In the United States, fewer than 5 percent of trips are longer than 30 miles.
For a gas engine, that represents a portion of a fuel tank. For an EV, range is
the result of a more complicated set of decisions about how to best use
expensive, hard-to-obtain metals. Melin, an expert in battery recycling, is
often asked by governments and automakers how those resources can be stretched.
It would be nice if he could tell them that recycling materials from old
batteries would do the job. But it can’t. Batteries can power cars for a decade
or more, and with EV adoption and the size of the average vehicle increasing
every year, old batteries can contribute only so much. So Melin’s suggestion:
Start off with less. Use smaller batteries in the first place."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics