12 Jul 2018

Prospects for electric vehicle batteries in a circular economy

Eleanor Drabik / Vasileios Rizos

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Electric vehicles are a key technology to decarbonise the road transport sector and their use is expected to increase, thereby increasing demand for lithium-ion batteries. This makes the development of a full value chain for batteries in Europe a priority, particularly the recycling of lithium-ion batteries where Europe is at an advantage being among the market leaders. What will happen to this huge number of batteries at their end-of-life and how the valuable materials within each battery can be recovered and recycled are important questions for EU policymakers, as is information on the impacts of developing a lithium-ion battery recycling industry within the EU.

Part of a wider project, CIRCULAR IMPACTS, which looks at the economic, employment and societal impacts of shifting towards a circular economy, this case study examines the impacts of managing electric-vehicle lithium-ion batteries reaching their end-of-life in the years to come.

It concludes that increasing the collection and recycling efficiency rates of electric vehicle batteries in the EU can mitigate dependence on imported materials and help to retain the value of recovered materials in the EU economy. Further potential benefits include job creation in the lithium-ion recycling sector, while recycling certain materials, as opposed to extracting the raw material, may mitigate CO2 emissions.