The Reason for Advanced Lithium Ion Batteries Won’t Be Recycled - Electronics Wh. Page 1 of 5
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The Reason for Advanced Lithium Ion Batteries Won’t Be Recycled
May.17, 2011 in 2011 CES News, Battery Technology, Current IT World, Laptop Battery Tips, Technology, Wholesale Electronics News
One of the most pervasive and enduring myths in the energy storage sector is that a robust recycling infrastructure for used lithium-ion batteries will be built before the wonder-batteries that are being manufactured today for the first generation of plug-in vehicles reach the end of their useful lives. In the worst case scenario, advocates suggest used lithium-ion batteries will be stockpiled until there are enough used batteries(Dell inspiron 9300 battery, Dell latitude d420 battery)to justify the build-out of
The numbers tell a very different story.
For several years the single minded obsession of all lithium-ion battery developers has been reducing costs to a point where using batteries as a substitute for a fuel tank makes economic sense. Most of the progress has come from substituting cheap raw materials like iron, manganese and titanium for the more costly cobalt and nickel that were used in first generation lithium-ion batteries. Unfortunately, when you slash the cost of the materials that go into a battery you also slash the value of the materials that can be recovered from that battery at the end of its useful life.
Using Material Data Safety Sheets from Powerizer and current LME Prices fromMetalPrices.com, I’ve calculated the value of the metals that can be recovered from recycling a ton of used batteries and summarized them in the following table.
Given the extremely high metal value of used cobalt-based lithium batteries it seems strange that only one company in the world, Unicore of Belgium, has bothered to develop a recycling process. When you take the time to read and digest Umicore’s process description, however, the reason becomes obvious. Recycling lithium-ion batteries(Dell gk479 battery, Dell inspiron 1520 battery) is an incredibly complex and expensive undertaking that includes:
z Collection and reception of batteries; z Burning of flammable electrolytes; z Neutralization of hazardous internal chemistry;
The Reason for Advanced Lithium Ion Batteries Won’t Be Recycled - Electronics Wh. Page 2 of 5
z Smelting of metallic components; z Refining & purification of recovered high value metals; and z Disposal of non-recoverable waste metals like lithium and aluminum.
The process is economic when a ton of batteries contains up to 600 pounds of recoverable cobalt that’s worth $40 a pound. The instant you take the cobalt out of the equation, the process becomes hopelessly uneconomic. Products that cannot be economically recycled can only end up in one place, your friendly neighborhood landfill.
Despite their extremely high metal value, cobalt-based lithium batteries(compaq
dv2000 battery, Dell d620 batteries) are rarely recycled because process is so difficult and expensive.
In the final analysis, the recycling mythology is just another glaring example of unconscionable waste and pollution masquerading as conservation.
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