Scaling up reuse and recycling of electric vehicle batteries: Assessing challenges and policy approaches
This paper summarizes how battery reuse and recycling can strengthen the environmental and social benefits of a global transition to electric vehicles. It estimates the volumes of end-of-life vehicle batteries that could be reused in second-life applications up to 2050. Similarly, it estimates the global demand of battery raw materials for electric vehicles and by how much it can be reduced by establishing an efficient recycling environment. The paper also describes the techno-economic opportunities and challenges faced and discusses the policy framework needed to scale up battery reuse and recycling practices.
The paper finds that the availability of end-of-life batteries is low but is expected to grow considerably. An estimated 1.2 million batteries from light- and heavy-duty BEVs and PHEVs will reach their end of life in 2030 globally, rising to 14 million in 2040, and 50 million in 2050. Reusing 50% of the end-of-life vehicle batteries for energy storage could offer a capacity of 96 GWh in 2030, 3,000 GWh in 2040, and 12,000 GWh by 2050. An efficient recycling of end-of-life vehicle batteries, in some cases after their prolonged usage in second-life applications, could reduce the combined annual demand in new lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese mining by 3% in 2030, 11% in 2040, and 28% in 2050.
The research also identifies policy areas for governments to consider to accelerate reuse and recycling practices. Incentivizing domestic capacity for battery reuse and recycling could significantly reduce costs while stimulating local economies and reducing the dependency on international supply chains. Updating and standardizing regulations on the transport and handling of end-of-life electric vehicle batteries could also reduce costs and encourage growth. Establishing standards for battery durability, safety, and information accessibility would increase the efficiency and safety of reuse and recycling processes. Supporting research and development in lithium-ion battery recycling technologies would expand the range of materials that can be recovered. In addition, introducing mandatory recovery rates and recycled content targets would also ensure efficient recycling of all key battery materials and incentivize their recovery at a quality high enough to prevent downcycling.