Recycling Of EV Batteries in India: Opportunities and Challenges

Battery recycling is a crucial aspect of the overall EV industry, and with high projected growth, it is anticipated that many opportunities will be available in this sector.

Recycling Of EV Batteries in India: Opportunities and Challenges

EVs are often correlated with their sustainability and environment-friendly nature. One of the prime reasons for the overall popularity of EVs in India (and around the world) could be attributed to the fact that the emissions of these electronic vehicles are negligible whilst compared to fossil-fuel-based cars and vehicles. However, critics often point out that the emission benefits are often overstated as battery management challenges are ignored.

However, several advantages and opportunities (as well as challenges) can aid in the country’s battery recycling system’s success. Around 60% of the total manufacturing cost of an EV battery could be attributed to raw material costs. However, a comprehensive policy on EV battery recycling could reduce such costs significantly. So let’s take account of opportunities and challenges faced in this area.

Assessment of Opportunities

The assessment of opportunities in battery recycling is primarily based on the expected size of the EV industry in India that would reach $300 billion during 2017–2030.

Among the several extant battery technologies, the lithium-ion battery (LIB) is now the most suitable alternative. Although different LIB batteries exist, most electric vehicles use lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt (LNMC) and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries. These batteries have a shelf life of eight to ten years, but once their energy-generating capability falls below 80%, they are no longer suitable for electric vehicles. On the other hand, these batteries can still be employed in stationary applications, such as renewable energy storage and other stationary applications.

To prevent improper handling and treatment of LIBs, the Indian government has issued draught guidelines on battery waste management. These guidelines propose mandating extended producer responsibility (EPR), which would require manufacturers to be responsible for the collecting, storage, transportation, recycling, and disposal of spent batteries. The government also provides some financial incentives to encourage LIB recycling investments.

A few businesses have already started recycling LIB on a small basis. They’ve used pyro metallurgical and hydrometallurgical technologies with a 90% material recovery rate. The purity of the recovered materials is up to 99%, making them suitable for reuse in new battery production. LIB recycling is costly (INR 90-100/kg), and policy support is currently minimal. The country now has a technical gap in LIB waste collection, storage, and recycling infrastructure. Retired LIBs must be handled, stored, transported, treated, recycled, and disposed of according to laws and regulations that have yet to be implemented. For cost-effectiveness in large-scale deployment in renewable and other stationary applications, standards for second-use applications of old EV batteries are also required.

The domestic EV and storage industries will gain significantly from a LIB circular economy. By 2030, recycled materials from old batteries will be able to enable the production of 60 GWh LIB cells in India, reducing reliance on imports and opening up new economic prospects for Li-cell makers, complementing the government’s AatmaNirbhar Bharat agenda. According to a study, using recycled materials can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 90%.

Assessment of Challenges

India currently lacks a commercial-scale recycling system. Retired batteries are piled up and discarded in landfills without being adequately treated. Lithium (which spontaneously reacts with moisture, causing explosions), nickel, and cobalt are all hazardous elements included in LIBs.

End-of-life battery management for electric vehicles

Lithium-ion or Li-ion batteries store energy and can be recharged in electric vehicles. From two-wheelers to commercial vehicles and public transportation buses, the batteries utilised in these vehicles are virtually the same. However, depending on the amount of power required to operate them, their composition and size vary from vehicle to vehicle. There is a lack of understanding and implementation of how electric car end-of-life battery management should be handled. However, recent research underlines that recycling would be the best and most feasible option in this context.

The Future of Recycling Market

With the market for EVs predicted to rise at a rapid rate (approximately 35% by 2026), overall battery usage will grow at a similar pace. Some of the recent legislation (E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2016 and E-waste (Management) Amendment Rules, 2018) call for a mandatory recycling procedure for safe disposal and recycling of EV batteries, something which is missing.

Summing up

Since the EV penetration rate in India is 0.8%, one could witness significant growth in the segment, owing to the large automobile sector of the country. Battery recycling is a crucial aspect of the overall EV industry, and with high projected growth, it is anticipated that many opportunities will be available in this sector. There are a few challenges, including a lack of proper legislation and guidelines that should be addressed in the future, thereby paving the way for several players to benefit from the expected growth in the sector. 

Author: Mr. Siddharth Agrawal, Director, Godawari e-Mobility Pvt Ltd.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author. These views and opinions do not represent those of The Indian Express Group or its employees.

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First published on: 12-04-2022 at 10:17 IST