Electric Vehicles: Batteries

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 27th February 2020.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Industrial Strategy)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what estimate he has made of the number of electric car batteries that will require disposal as the UK moves to a net zero economy; and what plans he has to ensure the safe disposal of those batteries.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Government has not made an estimate of the number of electric vehicle batteries in the UK that will need to be recycled in the future. In February this year the Government launched a consultation on bringing forward the end date for the sale of petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans to 2035, or earlier if that transition appears feasible. Presently cars and vans have an average lifespan of around 14 years before they become end-of-life vehicles. Figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that in 2019 there were new car registrations of 2,311,140 units, of which 148,997 units were for plug-in and hybrid vehicles, and for light commercial vehicles total registrations of 365,778 units.

Second life applications are being explored for batteries which are no longer able to perform as required in electric vehicles. An example is in energy storage solutions, which will delay the point the battery has to be recycled.

Electric car batteries are classified as industrial batteries and covered under the Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations 2009. This bans the disposal to landfill of such batteries and their incineration. It also establishes take-back and recycling obligations on industrial battery producers. There are also obligations under the End-of-Life Vehicles (Producer Responsibility) Regulations 2005. These require vehicle manufacturers and importers to establish collection networks to take back their vehicles free of charge at end-of-life. They also require vehicles to be treated at Authorised Treatment Facilities to certain depollution standards. These depollution standards include removal of the batteries at an early stage before further treatment takes place.

The UK’s £246 million Faraday Battery Challenge is playing a leading role in promoting the reuse and recycling of battery components. One of the eight technical challenges set is to be able to recycle 95% of an electric vehicle battery pack by 2035.

A number of live projects are exploring this area including a £10 million Faraday Institution research project. This is developing the technological, economic and policy framework that would allow high percentages of the materials in lithium-ion batteries at the end of their first life to be reused or recycled. In addition, several collaborative R&D projects are looking at reusing, remanufacturing or recycling end-of-life, automotive lithium-ion batteries.

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